By Allison Duncan

What do you remember about your professors—their witticisms, endearing quirks or their words of wisdom that you never forgot? We asked alumni throughout the decades to write in with their memories. If you have another anecdote you’d like to share, email us!

Vicki Guiteras Giunta-Abbott ’68

Dan Machon, Ph.D., who taught English, said that literature and life had the same themes: grief after joy and joy after grief. (He was a wise man!)

Sister Marie Lucy, who taught French, advised not to buy bikinis when we shopped for bathing suits. We were being ripped off, and we should get a bathing suit with the most material for our money, she said.

Susan Langan-Bailey Hunt ’71

My first education course at IU was with Sister Mary Leo. On the first day of class, about 30 of us were talking and laughing with each other when the door opened, and a short IHM nun took two steps into the room and stopped, stern-faced and tight-lipped. Gradually people noticed her, stopped talking, turned around in their seats and looked at her. Very shortly there was dead silence in the room.

Sister said something like, “That’s how you get a class full of students to pay attention!” 

I remember Sister Mary Leo as a bit intimidating, but that may just be my youthful student perspective! She was a good teacher. I never forgot that first lesson and used it many times, whether I was teaching geometry at Archbishop Prendergast High School or college algebra at Penn State Brandywine. It always worked, no matter the age of the students!

Heather Dotchel ’96

English professor Jim Mooney often said, “So what, who cares?” and “Carve this on the fleshy tissue of your heart!”

Anne Marie DeCarolis ’17

The Writing Center staff named Sister Caritas the “Patron Saint of Punctuation.” Her humor spurred students to create a Twitter account starring her one-liners, and Kristin Lynch ’17 drew a comic strip about her. For example, when someone asked her if she was giving up Facebook for Lent, she replied, “I’m giving it up for life!”

Cartoons featuring nun.
Kristin Lynch ’17 drew comics featuring Sister Caritas’ witticisms.

English professor Sean Flannery, Ph.D., taught first-year students the importance of stress management during finals by allowing us to shoot Dollar Tree ceramic carolers off of blocks with a Nerf gun. Sounds crazy, but it was so much fun! He said, “If this isn’t a fitting start to your holiday season, I don’t know what is.”

History professor John Hill, Ph.D., began his History of the Future class by having us write our own obituaries as an exercise to think about our own futures. It was my favorite class at IU! We studied what different cultures and time periods thought of the future and had to analyze what this said about them. We studied sci-fi films, paintings, weather reports from Mesopotamia, Bible passages and why some cultures read oracle bones. The final project was open-ended and gave me a chance to write my first book, set in my worst nightmare of the future where people had no names, love or personal identities.

Leadership professor Brian Petersen, Ph.D., often began class by asking each of us how we were and really listening to the answers! He dedicated the time and always delved behind the “fine” and “OK” responses so we could feel seen and be self-aware. 

Sister Sheila Galligan loved “flat pope” cut-outs and posed with them, high-fiving Pope Francis or hanging onto St. John Paul II’s arm as if he were walking her to the door after a school dance. 

Nun with cardboard cutout of pope.
Sister Sheila Galligan high-fives Pope Francis.
Nun with cutout of pope.
Sister Sheila arm-in-arm with St. John Paul II.
Photos courtesy of Anne Marie DeCarolis ’17.

Francesca Medora ’20  

I took several history courses with William Watson, Ph.D., because of his passion for uncovering the truths about the past and challenging inconsistencies. One of my favorite memories is that he always entered the classroom already talking about where we left off in the previous class!

I took a couple of theology courses with Sister Peggy McDonald because of her gentle disposition and erudition. I have fond memories of her beginning each class with a hymn to help us pray and reflect, such as “The Prayer of St. Francis” and “How Beautiful.”

I took multiple theology courses with Sister Sheila Galligan because of her brilliance and the joy she exudes. She opened up each class (and exclaimed any time she saw me outside of the classroom) with the wise phrase, “Oh happy day!” Each day is sacred and a blessing from Christ!

Maggie Murtha ’22

Sean Flannery said, “It’s a quaint Irish word, shenanigans. One I’ve been accused of most of my life.” And also, “They replace Punxsutawney Phil like they replace members of BTS.”