Sister Anne Denise Blake, SNDdeN
August 14, 1929 - January 5, 2021
By her own account, Anne Denise’s introduction to the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur was an artistic rendering of St. Julie’s mantra How good is the good God. There it was, front and center, in her freshman homeroom at Notre Dame Moylan (PA). As a Diamond Jubilarian, she came to see it as the beginning of God’s “persistent whisperings”: ‘How about it? Come and see.’”
And come she did – to Ilchester, in 1949. By 1952, she was a newly professed SND standing front and center in her own classroom, at St. Ursula’s, Parkville (MD). Back then, frequent transfers were the order of the day – especially for young Sisters. So by 1964, the year she completed her bachelor’s degree in education and French, Anne had moved five times, served in four different parochial schools (two in New York, two in Maryland), and taught all subjects at third-, fifth-, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade levels. No grass grew under her feet!
The next transfer was to teach French at St. Maria Goretti High in Philadelphia (1964-66) while pursuing graduate study in French language and literature at nearby St. Joseph’s College. Then came a mission to Archbishop Spalding High School in Baltimore, where she would remain for eleven years in different capacities. Her time there was divided between teaching and administration. Initially, she continued spending summer months pursuing a master’s degree in French. But in June 1970, she decided it was time to take stock.
In her file is a letter addressed to her SND Personnel Director, explaining why she wanted to withdraw from Middlebury’s degree program. It exemplifies her practical, “see-judge-act” approach to life—sizing up a situation, weighing the relative merits of available options, and acting accordingly:
At Spalding, the bulk of my time is spent being Prefect of Discipline. I teach at most two classes, fewer than forty students. My present background for teaching French is excellent. I have a good command of the language for an American. . . . At Middlebury the only courses open to me are studies in literature and history. Granted these courses broaden and enhance my background, but I don’t use the material even in a French IV class. If money is as tight as I am led to believe, I can’t spend almost $750.00 on pure pleasure, and that is what Middlebury and studying are for me. . . . Since most of my time is spent working in administration, I think courses in school administration or adolescent psychology will be more useful to me and the school.
. . . This decision is not a hasty one. I’ve been considering it since last January. I finalized it when I received the bill from Middlebury. If the Institute is planning something else for me, and a degree from Middlebury is a necessity, say but the word. I’m a “do or die” girl for Notre Dame. I will be glad . . . to discuss this decision and these reasons with you.
Her representation won the day. She became Vice-Principal at Spalding while pursuing a master’s degree in educational administration at Loyola College, Baltimore. At Loyola, she mastered theory; at Spalding, praxis! In the end, the administration proved to be her strongest suit.
Mother St. Joseph writes of St. Julie’s firm belief in good management; Anne Denise clearly agreed. In 1977, she began a 16-year stint in higher-education administration at Trinity College, Washington, DC – initially as an Administrative Assistant to the Coordinator of a Title III Grant for comprehensive institutional assessment and planning (’77-78). The following year, she assumed full responsibility as Coordinator (’78-85). Then, from ’85-93, she gave valuable service as Secretary of the College and its Board of Trustees. These were critical years of comprehensive change for the college. Her largely behind-the-scenes oversight of Trinity’s Title III Grant, along with her service as Secretary, played a key role in the operation of both the college and its Board.
While Trinity was getting its administrative house in order, the Maryland Province was undergoing a series of experimental approaches to governance. First came the province’s reorganization into four sub-groups, each with its own government plan plus representation on umbrella boards overseeing common concerns. Next, the four groups became three regions and eventually, three separate provinces. For Anne, the continual shifting from one organizational model to another--weighed alongside her administrative experience at Trinity, where Robert’s Rules of Order held sway—meant that province affairs were totally out of order. Nevertheless, in 1991, in true “do or die” fashion, she accepted an assignment as Administrative Assistant in the Maryland Province Office.
In the words of one SND on the leadership team during Anne Denise’s years of service, despite her hard time dealing with the split in the province, Anne set to work with characteristic professionalism:
She was very professional - loyal to the team and, at the same time, honest about her thoughts and feelings. She addressed issues with which she did not agree, but then, when leadership had another approach, did what she was asked to do. Her strict adherence to confidentiality was impeccable. She took time with her work, as was evident in its clarity and correctness. In fact, when something important was to be signed, she would say to me: “Your very best penmanship, please!”
Anne Denise’s final tour of duty was at Trinity School, from 1999 to 2013, happily serving as an “active retiree in the Development Office. “My professional career has been rewarding and satisfying, she wrote in 2009, “due in large measure to the educational opportunities given me.” Looking back over her sixty years in Notre Dame, she reflected:
I have walked in the company of women of faith and prayer, sharing with them the joys and struggles of daily living. Along the way, there have been Sisters whose wisdom and example, kindness, and concern have inspired me to be faithful to God’s call. For many of them I have prayed, “In paradisum,” and to those who walk with me still – thank you. How good is the good God!
The mantra in her freshman homeroom at Moylan seems to have remained front and center for her throughout her entire life, whatever personal, professional, and spiritual challenges she faced. Now it’s her turn to be thanked and blessed by all of us:
In paradisum, Anne Denise: May the angels lead you into paradise!
- Born Anne Theresa Blake, in Clifton Heights, PA, on August 14, 1929
- Baptized August 20, 2029, St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, Drexel Hill, PA
- Parents: Francis A. Blake (b. Clifton Heights) and Anne M. Callaway (b. Philadelphia)
- Siblings (deceased): William F. Blake, Margaret King, Patsy Scanlon, Jane Wichhart and Frances M. Blake
- Entered Notre Dame: August 8, 1949
- First Profession: January 26, 1952
- Perpetual Vows: July 30, 1957
- St. Charles Borremeo, Oakview, PA
- Notre Dame Girls’ High School, Moylan, PA
- B.S. - Trinity College, Washington, DC (Education; French minor) - 1964
- M.Ed., Loyola College, Baltimore, MD (Education/Administration) – 1977
- Graduate Study in French:
- St. Joseph College, Philadelphia (1964-66); McGill University, Montreal (1966);
- Middlebury College, Vermont (Summers, 1968 & 1969)
- Parochial School Teaching
- St. Ursula, Baltimore MD (1952-55; 6th grade)
- St. Catherine of Genoa, Brooklyn, NY (1955-56, and 1958-62, 5th, 6th & 7th grades)
- Holy Rosary – Staten Island, NY (1956-58; 3rd & 5th grades)
- St. Jerome, Hyattsville MD (1962-63; 8th grade)
- St. Maria Goretti HS, Philadelphia PA (1964-66; French)
- Archbishop Spalding HS, Baltimore MD (1966-77; French teacher; Chair of Language Department; Vice-Principal)
- Trinity College, Washington DC (1977-90):
- Administrative Assistant to Title III AIDP Grant Coordinator (1977-78)
- Coordinator of Title III AIDP Grant and Assistant to the President for Administration (1978-85)
- Secretary of the College and Its Board of Trustees (1985-1993)
- Maryland Province Office, Administrative Assistant (1991-99)
- Trinity School, Ilchester, MD:
- Member, Board of Trustees (1994-2003); Administrative Assistant, Development Office (1999 – 2013)
Ministry of Prayer
- Villa Julie: June 2018
- Mount Notre Dame Health Center: November 2018 – January 2021
Prepared by Mary Ann Cook, SNDdeN