Dominican University and the village of River Forest lost an influential community leader and friend with the passing of Sister Jean Murray on Feb. 14, 2019. Sr. Jean died at the age of 91 at the Dominican Motherhouse in Sinsinawa, Wisconsin.
A Sinsinawa Dominican sister for 66 years, she served as president of Rosary College, now Dominican University, from 1981 to 1994. She joined the college in 1961 as a French teacher and later served as chair of the Foreign Languages Department. She led the college’s international program in Fribourg, Switzerland for many years and in 1997 launched the Fanjeaux Pilgrimage, an annual trip retracing throughout southern France the footsteps and ministries of St. Dominic, founder of the 800-year-old Dominican Order. The program attracts faculty, staff and students from Dominican-sponsored colleges and universities across the country.
Sr. Jean served the Sinsinawa Dominican congregation as a provincial councilor for the Southeast Province from 1976 to 1980. She was the first woman to lead the Federation of Independent Illinois Colleges and Universities and founded the Dominican Higher Education Council.
Born in Broadview, Illinois, she graduated from Trinity High School in River Forest and received her bachelor’s degree in French from Rosary College and her doctoral degree in French from the University of Fribourg. She received the prestigious academic honor, Les Palmes Academiques, from the French government in 1976 for her publications on notable French author Georges Bernanos and her leadership in promoting French contributions to education and culture.
After her retirement, she was a regular presence on the Dominican campus, attending student activities, concerts and lectures and cheering on athletic teams. In 2012, the university named its newest residence hall in her honor.
“There was a quiet strength about Jean Murray that defined who she was and all that she accomplished,” reflected President Donna Carroll in an email to the Dominican community. “Hers was a soft style, but a strong presence. She described her later Dominican University years as a ministry of presence, continuing the relationship-centered Rosary College tradition.”
Sr. Jean is survived by numerous nieces, nephews and the Dominican Sisters with whom she shared her life for 66 years.
She requested a green burial, which took place on Feb. 16 at the Sinsinawa Dominican motherhouse in Wisconsin. A funeral Mass will be held at the motherhouse on Wednesday, Feb. 20 at 10:30 a.m. A memorial Mass will be celebrated at Dominican University on Saturday, March 2 at 11 a.m. in Rosary Chapel.
In lieu of flowers, gifts can be made to the Sr. Jean Murray, OP Scholarship at Dominican University.