Friday, March 19, 2010

52:The Self-Empowered Woman: Sister Rose Ann Fleming

Dear Followers,

I have been doing a lot of talks lately about The Self-Empowered Woman, and am intrigued by the fact that audience members are almost always interested in Mother Teresa's story. So today (since it is March Madness) I thought I'd share the story of another nun who has accomplished a great deal and done so without a lot of fanfare.

Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio may not hold a handful of NCAA Championships, but they do lead other college basketball teams in one very important arena. Ever since Sister Rose Ann Fleming became the academic advisor for Xavier Athletics back in 1985, every single men's basketball player who has played as a senior has graduated. This is a major improvement in light of the fact that 19% of the 65 teams competing in March Madness have graduation rates lower than 40%.

Sister Rose Ann Fleming, 77, has lived on campus since 1983 when she was a teacher at prestigious Xavier (a Jesuit university). She believes that if students have the mental ability to become Division 1 Athletes, then they obviously have the ability to do well in school. Freshman athletes at Xavier must attend ten hours of supervised study hall each week (two hours per night) and she has the cell phone numbers of athletes, which she doesn't hesitate to use if she feels an academic problem is on the horizon.

She wakes at 4am to pray and meditate for one hour before going on the computer as part of her work for Volunteer Lawyers for the Poor. Daily mass is at 8am and then she goes to her office where two advisers and two volunteers help her monitor the 271 athletes who participate in Xavier's 17 sports. Her own exercise routine includes an elliptical trainer, weights and swimming. Sister Rose Ann cares about her athletes, her school, and her own academic achievements; she has a law degree, Maters degrees in English, Theology and Business Administration, as well as a doctorate in Education Administration.

A recent photo in the New York Times showed her wearing gray Nike sweats, white tennis shoes, and a heavy gold cross hanging on a chain the represents her order (the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur). In 1991, the then-Xavier basketball coach named her the teams most valuable player, and in 2000 she became a member of Xavier's Athletic Hall of Fame.

One five foot four, white-haired woman has changed the face of NCAA players by "meticulously shepherding athletes towards college degrees." Little Sister Rose Ann Fleming has become Xavier's secret weapon.

Looking forward to your comments...

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