In Memoriam: Sister Clare Wagstaffe


Sister Clare Wagstaffe, an educator whose devotion to Saint Mary's College led to her being named an honorary Christian Brother, died on Jan. 1, 2007. She was 85.

Following 24 years of service to Saint Mary's, Sister Clare retired in 2004 as director of parent relations, a position she inaugurated in 1994. Her previous assignments at the college included dean of student development, in which she oversaw student orientation, the career development center and health services. Sister Clare also taught in the Collegiate Seminar, the School of Extended Education and Graduate Psychology.

In recognition of her impressive record of service to Saint Mary's College, Sister Clare was officially affiliated into the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools in May 2001.

"Sister Clare was a wise, well-educated, warm, and joyful faculty member, counselor and administrator who loved the college, the students and their parents dearly and considered her affiliation to the Christian Brothers as the highest honor of her life," said Brother Mel Anderson, former president of Saint Mary's College.

Mary Donlon, the mother of three alumni and a longtime volunteer in the College's Alumni Office, said Sister Clare was dedicated to the students and parents of Saint Mary's.

"She put students and their families at ease," said Donlon. "Her remarkably warm, energetic manner made everyone feel instantly comfortable and willing to share - even very personal issues. She is what made Saint Mary's such a special, welcoming and unique campus."

Sister Clare was born in Oakland, Calif. on Jan. 19, 1921. She attended Mercy High School in Burlingame, and received her A.B. in Latin and Greek from Stanford University in 1941. The following year she received a teaching credential from the University of California at Berkeley. She went on to earn a master's degree in philosophy in 1949 and a doctorate in philosophy in 1951 from Catholic University of America.

Sister Clare joined the Dominican Sisters in 1943 and became known as Sister M. Joseph, O.P. From 1951 to 1972, she was a teacher and dean of students at Dominican College in San Rafael. Later, in 1993, she joined a new religious community for women known as the Sisters of the Holy Spirit in San Diego.

Following several years working in the ministries of the University of Washington and the Archdiocese of Denver, Sister Clare joined the staff of the Campus Ministry at Saint Mary's College in 1980. During the majority of her tenure at the College, she lived among the students in the residence halls, serving as a resident counselor and then as a resident director.

"She said everything that a student needed to hear and demonstrated everything that a student needed to see with that wide, loving, energetic and beautiful smile," said College Trustee the Rev. Patrick LaBelle, who first met Sister Clare in 1957 and has remained her friend ever since. "If God ever spoke though someone else in our time it was through Sister Clare and the place where that Divine voice was most clear was when Sister looked you in the eye, smiled and began to talk."

Sister Clare is survived by her brother William Wagstaffe and his wife, Margie; her nephew Paul Wagstaffe and his wife, Jennifer; nephew Dennis Wagstaffe and his wife, Cathy; and the fellow members of her religious order including Sister Mary Jo Anderson, Sister Susann Kerneghan, Sister Clarice Lolich and Sister Jolene Schmitz.

A funeral Mass is scheduled on Wednesday, Jan. 17 at 11 a.m. at the Saint Mary's College Chapel, to be followed by a reception in the Soda Center.

--Debra Holtz
Office of College Communications