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Scholar and Mentor, Prankster and Philosopher, Counselor and Friend

Memories of Sister Pat Hogan, OP

By Jennifer Hamlin Church

Pat Hogan, OP, aka Sister John Mary, began teaching philosophy and history at Siena Heights College in 1966. She went on to chair the philosophy department from 1979 until her un-expected death March 13, 1991, while at home in Chicago on sabbatical.

Pat Hogan’s legendary impact on students was never more evident than at the 2009 Alumni Awards ceremony, when three honorees—Tod Marshall ’90, now a poet and English professor at Gonzaga University; Jacob Chi ’85, now conductor of the Pueblo Symphony Orchestra and professor at Colorado State University; and Gabrielle Davis ’85, a lawyer specializing in women’s rights—all credited her with helping them find the right road to their future.

Tod Marshall remembered goofing off and skipping the reading for his independent study with Sister Pat—until the day he found her in the library “bent over her notes and poring over what we were going to talk about that day.” Startled to realize how much time and effort she was putting in “for me—just for me,” Tod reshaped his attitude. Knowing how committed she was to his education, he said, he “never again dropped the ball” on his studies.

Jacob Chi was a 28-year-old violinist, without funds and or a place to stay, when he arrived from China to attend Siena Heights in the early ‘80s. Sister Pat opened her home, as well as her heart and mind, to the talented musician. “There is no one in my entire academic life as important as Sister Pat,” he said recently, and “no other universities (as important) as Siena Heights.”

Gabrielle Davis was approaching graduation when Pat Hogan suggested she apply to law school. When Gabrielle hesitated, she remembers, Sister Pat’s response was prophetic: “She said, ‘You’ve had a lot of advantages in your life and you really have an obligation to give back. I can’t think of a better way to do it than for you to go to law school and serve the people who need your help.’” And that’s just what Gabrielle has done.

Jacob Chi with Sister Pat Hogan.
Jacob Chi with Sister Pat Hogan.

When, in the last issue of this magazine, we invited alumni to share more memories of Sister Pat Hogan, the responses echoed everything we heard at that awards ceremony five years ago.

“I had Sister John Mary for philosophy as a sophomore,” wrote Linda Hansen ’70. Linda planned to become a high school math teacher until, in a chance meeting with the Sister, she mentioned how much she had loved philosophy and how sorry she was that she couldn’t continue, since math and education left no room in her schedule. “Sister John Mary urged me not to give up something I loved so deeply, and I took her advice,” keeping the math major (in a compromise with her father) but trading education for a strong philosophy minor. Her father and Sister John Mary were equally delighted when she was accepted into the philosophy Ph.D. program at Marquette University. Linda taught college philosophy for 17 years before changing careers to become a minister, “where my philosophy background was invaluable. I credit Pat Hogan with setting me on my true life course, and I remain more grateful than I can say.”

When John Metzger ’75 arrived at Siena, he was one of the new male students on campus. “We were hippies, and religious tradition was so under question—but Sister John Mary was a beautiful friend (whose) faith and understanding resist description. It was evident to me and others that she embodied a host of the absolute qualities of human nature, philosophical and theological, that we discussed in her class. It was kind of like being taught by a maternal St. Thomas Aquinas…” Sister Pat helped make Siena “a super-special place for higher learning,” he recalls. “The pleasure and value of knowing her has been secure in my memory” ever since.

Sister John Mary was a beautiful friend (whose) faith and understanding resist description.—John Metzger’75

“I had the good fortune to take Philosophy of Person with her and I loved every minute,” wrote Mary Weeber ’83. “She started every class by reading from a book called Psalms Now by a minister who rewrote the psalms to reflect contemporary life. It was a powerful way to start the class and the psalm she read each day seemed to reflect what we were studying at the time. The day of the mid-term exam, when we were all anxious about the test, Pat opened the book and read, ‘Let us begin this day with singing whether we feel like it or not…’ This may have been Pat’s greatest gift to me—a simple line that I have heard in my mind at almost every stressful moment of my life.”

Pat’s sense of humor was appreciated by her colleagues, too. “Pat Hogan was one of the joys of my life while I was teaching at Siena Heights in the 1980s,” wrote English Professor Emerita Martha Manheim. “A tall Irish nun from Chicago who taught Logic and other courses in philosophy, Sister Pat was as serious about her faith as it is possible to be—but she was not serious about the weaknesses of academic life. She richly enjoyed the over-seriousness that is endemic to the profession. When I sat next to her at endless meetings, I was hard put to keep my face straight as she pointed out the logical fallacies of much of the discussion, sotto voce and with hilarious wit. How healthy it was to see the real point of the work of education through the lens of a logical mind, with the wit to make our pretensions laughable.”

After Pat Hogan’s sudden death, Martha recalls saying that Pat was “like Chaucer in her ability to see the flaws in all of humanity with the greatest good humor and forgiveness. My husband corrected me: He said Sister Pat was herself the very reincarnation of that great English poet. How could we not forever miss such a mind, such a soul?”

How not, indeed.

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