SGP ACADEMY FACULTY:
Included Dedicated and Gifted Nuns and Lay Teachers
by Patricia Anderson and Joe Lalley
When St. Genevieve was founded by four Sisters and one lay member of the Religious of Christian Education, all classes were instructed by Catholic nuns; however, as the school grew rapidly, non-Catholic lay teachers joined the faculty. By 1938, the faculty included 41 teachers. The inclusion of non-Catholic teachers added diversity to the faculty, as the student body also included many Protestant and Jewish students in addition to Catholics. Founded as a diocesan school rather than as a parochial school, St. Genevieve was never predominantly Catholic.
As St. Genevieve-of-the-Pines earned a reputation as an outstanding educational institution, it was the direction, dedication, competency, and resourcefulness of its faculty that nurtured its traditions and attracted students to its campus. The Academy, for example, was referred to as Pottsville by some of Mother Margaret Potts’ admirers during her twenty-five-year tenure as head of the Academy.
Margaret Mary Betts was a highly regarded English and history teacher in both the Academy and Junior College. Mother Marthe Delamare, an excellent French teacher, is also remembered for the fine dramatic productions she directed. Mother Regina Stelling, a ham radio operator and Boston Red Sox fan, was among the first teachers selected by the National Science Foundation to study the new mathematics programs of the 1960s. She had a long and distinguished career as a math teacher. Mary Keetch, whose daughter attended the Academy, enjoyed a long tenure as a history teacher. Dr. Frank Edwinn, a well-known opera singer and professor of music, directed many of the Academy’s musical productions.
The honor roll of Academy teachers also includes Sister Nancy Schwoyer, an SGP alumna, English teacher, and Principal of the Academy. Mother Mary Claire Clancy, a talented biology teacher, became Principal of the Academy. Madame Fafar Guillebeaux, Chairman of the Foreign Language Department, enjoyed a fine reputation as French teacher.
During the same era when Mother Potts was Head of the Academy and Mr. Pinto was Headmaster of Gibbons Hall, Sister Kathleen Winters directed St. Genevieve Prep, the girls’ grammar school. Sister Winters, who held a Master of Arts degree in United States History, received a number of National Science Foundation grants to study and teach physics. She later became the very able Principal of Asheville Catholic High School. Mother Geoffrion, who taught French and art in all three departments, was loved because her students knew that she wanted nothing but the best from them. Mother Mary Gannon, Eileen McCabe, Mary Gibson, Mother Mary Meehan, and Sister Ethel Lunsford were key teachers in the Prep for many years.
The late Sister Mary Quinn, another outstanding English, reading, and mathematics teacher who had previously taught in both the Academy and the Prep, became Principal of the Prep shortly after Sister Winters was reassigned. Oriel Jarrett began her long and distinguished career at the Prep as a kindergarten teacher. Later she became equally respected as a math teacher, first in the Prep, then in the Academy, and finally at The Asheville School.
Therese Guilka Brewer, a graduate of St. Genevieve and a very capable science and English teacher, led the Prep’s faculty through its initial accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools when she was Principal of the Prep. Elaine Fitch Scagnelli, a superb science teacher, enthusiastic friend of young people, and graduate of the Academy, was the last Principal of the Prep. Later she was recognized as the Outstanding Teacher of the Year for her work in the Orange County, NC, public school system.
After Mother Potts left St. Genevieve-of-the-Pines in 1967, Mother Dorothy McGuire, who had distinguished herself as a math teacher, was appointed Superior during the last three years of the school’s operation by the Order. These were especially difficult times. The decline of the number of young women entering the Order came to a virtual standstill and many Sisters who had served the school so well for so long were no longer able to teach. The cost of taking care of those who were unable to care for themselves increased geometrically.
There were other factors that compounded the problems of these years. The national economy and the great waves of national social unrest had their impacts on boarding school enrollments throughout the United States. The enrollment of the Academy, which had included as many as eighty boarders in peak years, dropped to fewer than forty boarders during this time. Day school enrollments fell as well.