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A Century of Saints

In honor of Sr. Mary Odile Cahoon



Sr. Mary Odile Cahoon shares her
thoughts on the Benedictine values


Sr. Mary O. gives a lecture on
Charles Darwin and evolution

Local news coverage of Sr. Mary O.
sharing her thoughts about Will Steger's 1995
Trans-Antarctic expedition

I never had the pleasure of meeting Sr. Mary Odile Cahoon in my short time here, but I certainly knew who she was. Her legacy is everywhere.

Sr. Mary O. graduated from St. Scholastica in 1951 and started in the Biology department in 1954. She retired as Senior Vice President 50 years later in 2004. In the interim, Sr. Mary O. served as chair of the Biology Department, chair of the Natural Sciences Division, director of the Ireland program, Academic Dean and Dean of the College. She was critical in the construction of the Science Center and founded the first study abroad program at St. Scholastica.

Before her administrative work with the College, however, she was a biologist. It is in this capacity that she became one of the first two women to winter over at Antarctica's McMurdo Station. During the long, cold, darkness of the antarctic winter, she and her colleague conducted research on the metabolism of marine life in the antarctic oceans (pdf).

Here's her description of McMurdo Station, from the May 1, 1974 issue of Times Magazine:

McMurdo is a "town" of about 100 buildings -- yes, all above ground. In fact, there isn't any snow on the ground here at the moment. You can find ice if you walk a few feet but the "roads" in town are clear -- and dusty. This is a very advanced civilization with flush toilets and showers. There is a water shortage, however, and everyone is supposed to conserve. The buildings range from a huge one that houses the mess, ship's store, living quarters for some uncertain number and recreational facilities; to small buildings with canvas walls, called Jamesways. Movies are shown in four different locations every night. So far, I haven't gone to any. With broad daylight, it still seems like working hours after dinner.

Sr. Mary Odile Cahoon passed away on October 2, 2011. Sr. Mary Odile truly gave her best to St. Scholastica and for that we owe her our sincerest thanks. 

Sr. Mary Odile Cahoon with a Wedell seal in Antarctica.


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