July 29, 1917— March 9, 2012
Ruth Dolores Suedkamp was born on July 29, 1917 to Henry Bernard and Julia (Forstmeyer) in Hamilton, Ohio. Her Baptism occurred on August 5, 1917 in St. Joseph Church where she was also confirmed in November, 1926. Ruth had five brothers and three sisters with whom she was very close throughout her life. None more so than with her younger sister Henrietta! Henrietta followed Ruth into Notre Dame where she became known by her religious name, Sister Bernadine Julie. Both Sisters taught math which must have led to some great sharing of teaching methods.
Ruth began her lifelong fascination with study from her earliest days at St. Joseph School in Hamilton from where she graduated in June, 1931. She also attended Notre Dame High School and graduated from there in June, 1935. She had met the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in both schools and her admiration for them was undoubtedly one of her reasons for joining their community. She entered as a postulant on August 2, 1936. Ruth became a novice on January 30, 1937 taking for her religious name, Sr. Mary Cyril. She would return to the use of her baptismal name in 1968. Sister professed her first vows on January 5, 1939 and her perpetual vows on August 13, 1944.
Sister Ruth completed her first degree program at the University of Dayton, Ohio, in June, 1941. She was well prepared for her first teaching assignment at St. Joseph Academy in Columbus, Ohio the following September. Sister continued her teaching ministry in two province high schools at two different times; St. Joseph Academy (1941-1945 and 1953-1956). Sister also did the same thing at Julienne High School (1945-1951 and 1956-1959). From 1951 until 1953, Sister taught at Notre Dame High School in Chicago, Illinois and at Mount Notre Dame High School in Reading Ohio. From 1959 until 1978, Sister Ruth taught at Bishop Hartley High School in Columbus, Ohio.
Hartley became very special to Sister Ruth and her students especially the boys who sensed her complete professionalism as well as her great concern for them. Sister had long been known as an excellent teacher well prepared in all the sciences in the various science and math classes which she taught. Yet all her students always sensed her great concern for them when they had difficulties with their studies. She constantly changed her lesson plans to find new ways to help all of them to succeed in their studies.
Sister became aware of the successes of some of her students who frequently returned to visit her from Ohio State. In recounting some of those visits she once wrote, “My students have become successful in scientific fields in college, but they were good students who would have succeeded anyway. But there were those who succeeded who were not A students. In fact, Sister Ruth took some pride in her experiences of over 33 years teaching the sciences. She gave herself a private award in “The art of explaining scientific principles.”
Sister Ruth may have given herself an award for her teaching skills. They were also recognized outside of the classroom. The director of student teachers at capital University in Columbus chose to send young student teachers to her classes at Bishop Hartley High School to learn “the art of teaching."
In 1977, "Sister Ruth received the Jerry Acker Outstanding Science Teacher Award from the Ohio Academy of science, one of 12 teachers in the state to do so. “The headline of the article in the local newspaper read, “Hartley teacher tops in science."
The changing nature of scientific research found its way into high school textbooks throughout Sister’s many years in the classroom. Sister Ruth continued her studies to keep abreast of the latest research. In 1953 she had received a Masters of Science from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio with a major in chemistry. The title of her thesis was “Modified Sulphite Method for the Extraction of Alumina from Clay." Sister continued studies at St. Mary of the Springs and Ohio State in Columbus and DePaul and Loyola Universities in Chicago, Illinois. Besides her more formal study during the summers Sister received five National Science Foundation grants which were held literally in schools from coast to coast, Boudoin College, Maine; Boston College; Massachusetts; Earlham College, Indiana; Ohio State and finally the University of California, at Berkeley.
Sr. also took time out from teaching in 1978 to become a student at Ohio State responding to a need in the convent at Mount Notre Dame. She spent two years there as a student in the school of pharmacy. Although she never completed the degree program Sister was able to become an assistant to the doctors in the in-house pharmacy later when she arrived at Mount Notre Dame Health Center. As usual, her work and dedication were noteworthy.
When sister finally arrived at Mount Notre Dame health Center she became very active in community service to her sisters as well as to a ministry of prayer to the whole world. She found time to read to many sisters whose eyesight was failing; she led community prayers; she read the Epistle at Mass frequently. Sister was a woman of prayer.
She loved to knit and crochet. For two years she worked to embroider a tablecloth with very intricate designs. A lovely picture with two of her young friends from Mount Notre Dame High School shows the three of them admiring the finished product, their foreheads still signed with the ashes of Ash Wednesday. Sister was a woman of creativity.
Sister never outgrew her appreciation of her teaching ministry and how biology math and science had taught her of God. Sister was a woman who loved God and His creation.
In spite of all her accomplishments and her deep spirituality, Sister Ruth never seemed to give herself much credit for her many contributions and acts of charity and kindness. Her great care of the sisters’ feet she thought of as a privilege to be in their presence even as they were ever so grateful for her care.
In the letter requesting to make her first vows Sister Ruth wrote,"I desire to make my vows to accomplish God's will and give any and every service to him." And every service she did give - in teaching, and nursing, and sewing, and photography, and cleaning, indeed in many ways. By doing so, she did indeed accomplish God's will for her throughout her life. Her name Ruth means one who is satiated, satisfied and fulfilled. Ruth was well named for her life was a living example of her name. She was a grateful woman who did accomplish the goal she set for herself as a young woman so many years ago.
Sister Louanna Orth, SNDdeN
March 9, 2012