WOMAN of ACTION – Joan Nowotny

 

 

 

A Celebration of Women

is elated to Celebrate the Life through this Tribute to a `FREE THINKING` Woman.

Not only was this a woman that never questioned her faith, she was brave enough to live a life without ‘Contempt Prior to Investigation’. There is an old axiom stating that one should ‘Trust – but Verify’ and this is a lifestyle that takes the Courage to Take Action, speak out, stand tall and stand up for your own beliefs, whatever they may be.

This woman is a true Power of Example of living a faith filled life of truth to self; one that all women have the right to live.

 

 

  

WOMAN of ACTION

 

  

Joan Nowotny

Sr (Dr) Joan Nowotny ibvm

(18 August 1925 – 29 June 2008)

… a carefree grace.

 

JOAN NOWOTNY, the first woman dean of a theological institution in Australia,

was a free spirit,

‘a philosopher who didn’t question her faith’;

but often questioned its expression.

 

Nowotny, the eldest of four children, was born in Melbourne, inheriting from her mother a deep faith, and from her father an intellectual breadth of vision. Her father had come from Vienna with two grand pianos and helped establish an orchestra in Perth. He was a secondary school teacher, an occasional economics writer for a newspaper and a man of big ideas and dreams. Joan’s parents were Henry Richard Nowotny and May Helene Taffe (maiden name).

 

 

After the family moved to Queensland, Joan was educated at Loreto College, Brisbane, and later undertook teacher training. She taught at St Peter and Paul’s Primary School in South Melbourne, and studied arts before joining the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Loreto Sisters). http://www.ibvm.org/  The religious order is distinguished for its tradition of liberal education.

Nowotny, known then as Mother Miriam (nuns reverted to their family names after Vatican II), taught at various Loreto schools. Her abilities and enthusiasm were soon recognised and she was appointed principal at Loreto Kirribilli (1955-56), and then at Loreto Normanhurst (1957-1965).

Encouraged to pursue higher studies, she completed a master of arts in philosophy at Toronto University and, with a Canadian scholarship, began her doctoral studies, which included the year in the Sorbonne in Paris. Nowotny completed her doctorate in 1974, focusing on Gabriel Marcel’s philosophy of hope. Her study of the role of hope in human existence had a profound influence on her intellectual and spiritual development.

 

 

 

Following the family’s move to Queensland, Joan was educated at Loreto College, Brisbane and later undertook teacher training. While teaching at St Peter and Paul’s Primary School, South Melbourne, she studied Arts before joining the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Loreto Sisters),

 

 

http://www.ibvm.ca/about/story

 a religious Order founded in 1609 by the Englishwoman Mary Ward,

and distinguished for its tradition of liberal education.

 

 

Following her religious profession and completion of her studies, Joan, (known then as Mother Miriam), taught at various Loreto schools. Her abilities and enthusiasm were soon recognized and she was appointed as principal at Loreto Kirribilli (1955-56), and then at Loreto Normanhurst (1957-1965), and encouraged to pursue higher studies.

 

A person of many dreams and ideas, she had studied at the Sorbonne during the exhilarating and turbulent student uprisings of 1968, working under Paul Ricoeur, attending lectures by Jean-Paul Sartre and conducting interviews with the French existentialist philosopher Gabriel Marcel. She later planned retreats for atheists.

 

The meaning of life was not self-evident to her.

 

Her concern was to do what she could to free the individual’s mind. Yet, as academic dean at Yarra Theological Union, an affiliated teaching institute of the Melbourne College of Divinity  (http://www.mcd.edu.au/ ) , Nowotny displayed her keen administrative mind and a capacity for meticulous attention to detail. The fact that a woman had charge of male seminarians from 1980 to 1989 was remarkable in itself.

Philosophical reflection was one of the great loves of Joan’s life. She cherished not only the intellectual rigour of philosophy, but also its existential import in engaging the deepest questions of life’s meaning. She loved it most of all for its capacity to open and to free the mind. It equipped her to be a gifted educator and her students profited greatly from the imaginative and incisive manner with which she taught.  An open-mindedness and open-heartedness was her goal, and indeed the model that she herself epitomized.

 

Education, for Joan,

was essentially a task of freedom, of freeing people’s minds from entrapment.

 

Joan bore her considerable intellectual gifts lightly, with an easy conversational manner and a carefree grace. Yet a certain natural air of authority characterized her various roles, both within the Institute, as school principal, and as university college principal, St Mary’s College, University of Melbourne, and Ena Waite College, University of Tasmania.

 

Joan proudly claimed to be the first woman dean of a theological institution,

 in Australia.

 

From 1980 to 1989 Joan served as Academic Dean at Yarra Theological Union(YTU http://www.yarrainstitute.org.au/AboutUs/Brochure.aspx ), an affiliated teaching institute of the Melbourne College of Divinity (MCD). In this role she had responsibility for the academic programs of several hundred students (including over a hundred seminarians) and played a crucial role in welcoming lay people and particularly women to theological study.

While in so many ways the proverbial free spirit, Joan had a keen administrative mind and a capacity for meticulous attention to detail. The fundamentals of essay writing and presentation, and the minutiae of spelling and punctuation, would not escape her educator’s eye. When, as Dean, it came to oversight of the requirements for course completion, or the design and implementation of the YTU curriculum in the context of the MCD, she was precise and objective, while open and flexible as required. She was a skilful and astute Chair of meetings, always well prepared, contributing clarity and precision to the business of the meeting as well as flashes of humour and quick wit to lighten even the most dreary agenda.

After a sabbatical year in 1990, Joan returned to YTU as Chair of the Philosophy Department and taught Philosophy from 1991-2003. She was formally honoured for her many contributions and distinguished service, by being named:

  • Fellow of the Australian College of Education (1986)
  • Fellow of the Melbourne College of Divinity (1990)
  • Senior Fellow of Yarra Theological Union (2003) 

Officially retiring from YTU in 2003, she continued to participate in seminars and events there, never one to miss a party or celebration. Her impishly composed clerihews contributed to the memorability of many an occasion. Her birthday celebrations were legendary, extending into at least a month-long season of festivities.

Retirement afforded her the opportunity to exercise her painting skills, particularly through icon-writing, to spend more time with her beloved family, and to indulge her love of cricket, sudoku and cryptic crosswords. For thirteen years she contributed the monthly cryptic crossword puzzles to the Jesuit magazine, Eureka Street, and she also served on its editorial board. Alas, her plans to conduct retreats for atheists did not come to fruition. She did, however, teach philosophy to her fellow residents at Bedford Heights.

A lover of words and puzzles, a woman of wisdom and grace, Joan was always the teacher of philosophy: it mattered, and the love of wisdom that was so alive in her will live on in those who were blessed to know her and to be caught up in her passion for learning and for life.

Joan Nowotny, who has died in her sleep peacefully, at 82, left a precious piece behind for all the Women of our World.

‘ Women in time will do much…’

CLICK for ‘pdf’ Below.

http://www.loreto.org.au/works/documents/Women_in_time_Anna_Gaha_Jan07.pdf

Philosophical reflection was one of the great loves of her life.

 

She cherished the intellectual rigour of philosophy, its engaging the deepest questions of life’s meaning and its capacity to open and to free the mind. It equipped her to be a gifted educator and her students profited from the imaginative and incisive manner with which she taught.

 

_________________________________

 Sources:  Associate Professor Anne Hunt OAM, Australian Catholic University.
Source-photo:  The Sydney Morning Herald
Loreto Sister History: http://www.loretoskinner.co.za/history.htm
Joan’s Book: http://www.bookfinder.com/dir/i/Freedom_Entrapment-Women_Thinking_Theology/186371555X/

A Celebration of Women

sends our blessings and eternal gratitude for this Spirit of a Woman, sharing our belief that the Women of our World are better for her living her life. May her spirit live inside us all, offering FREE THINKING open minded thoughts.

 

Brava Sister Joan!

(Mother Miriam)

 

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