President Emerita Sister Elizabeth Anne Sueltenfuss
was a pioneer and visionary in the field of higher education
She passed away Dec. 19 at the age of 88

View Scheduled Services
View 2008 Video Tribute presented at gala

Serving as the first female president of Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) and as one of the first Texas women to lead a University, Sister Elizabeth Anne Sueltenfuss, a Sister of Divine Providence, a pioneer and visionary in the field of education, opened the doors to higher education for thousands of working adults and changed the way universities provide educational services when she introduced OLLU’s Weekend College program in the late 1970s.

Sister Sueltenfuss, who carried the title of OLLU president emerita, died December 19, 2009, at the age of 88. She entered religious life in 1939 and made her profession of vows as a Sister in 1941. She earned a bachelor's degree in botany and zoology from Our Lady of the Lake and obtained master's and doctoral degrees from University of Notre Dame in Indiana.

Her life and work have filled pages. Serving as OLLU’s president from 1978 to 1997, Sister Sueltenfuss brought new life to the campus. She is credited with the development of many of the University’s innovative programs furthering a period of unprecedented growth. The Weekend College developed during Sister Sueltenfuss’ presidency was the first program of its kind in South Texas to offer classes in a non-traditional form. Established in 1978, the Weekend College opened the door to educational programs designed for older students who are already in the workforce; and today that program has grown to offer bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. OLLU’s Weekend College offerings are located in San Antonio, Houston, and Harlingen.

"Everything that Sister Elizabeth Anne did for the University, she did from a place of joy,” said OLLU President Tessa Martinez Pollack. “Those in the community who knew her experienced that with her. She leaves an impressive mark in the 114-year history of OLLU that continues to shape our future and our vision."

Under the leadership of Sister Sueltenfuss, OLLU’s enrollment grew to 3,000 students, existing facilities were upgraded, and new facilities were built, including the library which is named in Sister’s honor, the Elizabeth Anne Sueltenfuss Library. New academic programs were also added. The nation’s first doctor of psychology degree program in counseling psychology accredited through the American Psychological Association was established in 1990 while Sister Sueltenfuss was president. In addition, Texas’ first electronic commerce program was established at OLLU in 1995 during her tenure of office.

"Sister Elizabeth Anne was a builder of community, a forger of relationships. She was a totally committed Sister of Divine Providence and found ways to stay connected to the Congregation and the individual Sisters even when her responsibilities at OLLU were demanding” said Sister Jane Ann Slater, superior general of the Sisters of Divine Providence. “She was an educator in her very being and demanded excellence from her students. She has stayed in contact with many former students through the years. She is for all of us a wonderful example of what it takes to build bridges and connect people."

Sister’s work in the San Antonio community evidenced her influence far beyond the OLLU campus. She served in key positions in many civic and professional groups, including chair of the Executive Committee of the Texas Independent College fund, director and treasurer of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas, and director of the Association of Texas Colleges and Universities. She also served as treasurer and executive committee member of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, a national organization that began on the OLLU campus during her presidency.

Serving as a board member for other organizations, Sister Sueltenfuss also rendered her services on the board of directors of the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, the Board of Visitors of the Air Force Institute of Technology, the Army and Air Force Community Councils, the Free Trade Alliance of San Antonio, Avance, American Cancer Society, and the San Antonio Library Foundation. She received numerous awards and honors including the Ford Foundation’s Salute to Education Award, the Brotherhood Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews, the Women in Communications Headliner Award for Professional Achievement, the JC Penney Spirit of the American Woman Award, and the San Antonio Express-News Lifetime Achievement Award.

Sister Sueltenfuss is the only member of the Congregation of the Sisters of Divine Providence (CDP) to serve as president of OLLU, which was founded by the Sisters and is still sponsored by the Congregation. An active member of the Congregation, Sister Sueltenfuss took on leadership and development roles within the Congregation before her presidency at OLLU. As a Sister, she taught in schools operated by the CDP Sisters in Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Texas. She served on the faculty in OLLU’s biology department. She also served on Congregational committees, in the Congregation’s General Chapter sessions, and on the CDP development team.

She was preceded in death by her parents Edward L. and Elizabeth Amrein Sueltenfuss, niece Pam and great niece Alisa. She is survived by her brother Gerald Sueltenfuss and his wife, Jerry; nieces Kathryn (Jim) Rice, and Carolyn (Dr. Paul) McLerran; nephews Dr. Paul (Alice) Sueltenfuss and Gene Sueltenfuss; numerous grandnieces and grandnephews; and the Sisters of the Congregation of Divine Providence.

In lieu of flowers, Sister Sueltenfuss left a request that memorial gifts be made to scholarships at OLLU. Donations may be sent to the Our Lady of the Lake Convent Center, 515 S.W. 24th Street, San Antonio, Texas 78207.

The following is the schedule of services:

Monday, Dec. 21
Visitation – 6 p.m.
Wake Service – 7 p.m.
Sacred Heart Chapel

Tuesday, Dec. 22
Visitation – 9 a.m.
Mass of Christian Burial – 10 a.m.
Sacred Heart Chapel

Burial will follow at Providence Cemetery on the campus. 

In 2008, OLLU honored Sister Elizabeth Anne Sueltenfuss with a gala. During the event, a video tribute was presented.
View video

© Copyright 2014, Our Lady of the Lake University, 411 S.W. 24th St., San Antonio, TX 78207 | Tele: 210-434-6711