ST. GENEVIEVE SCHOOL FOR SECRETARIES:
Prepared Students for Business Careers
by Patricia Anderson
A direct extension of the St. Genevieve Junior College, the School for Secretaries opened in 1955, when the SGP Junior College closed; the one-year program moved from Victoria Inn to the second floor of Deplanck Hall. The petite and energetic Sister Ann Zeleznik embodied the school from its inception. A young legal secretary with first-rate skills, she was the second woman to enter the St. Genevieve novitiate of the Religious of Christian Education, beginning in February 1927 her seven-year preparation for her full vows. (The novitiate at St. Genevieve existed for two years. Mother Margaret Potts was the fourth young woman to enter the Order through St. Genevieve, beginning her vows in August 1927.)
In 1930, when the SGP four-year senior college closed, the junior college offered two departments, one of which was the program for secretaries. For fifty years – 25 in the junior college and 25 in the succeeding School for Secretaries, Sister Zeleznik taught the course and continued to direct the program until it ended in 1980. At closing ceremonies, the North Carolina coordinator of non-public education stated, “The tremendous achievements of your noble order of wonderful teachers will not be diminished by the passing of time.”
Every day Sister Zeleznik led her students in prayer, asking for “quickness of apprehension and capacity of retaining.” In her 25 years as director of the school, Sister Zeleznik spent many hours working with students who needed additional tutorials and practice; her students never failed. With her earlier business experience strengthening her credentials, she personally taught shorthand, typing, accounting, and secretarial procedures. Assisting Sister Zeleznik in the school was Mrs. Esther Decker, who taught English, spelling and ethics; during breaks between classes, Mrs. Decker and Sister Zeleznik also taught the girls to play bridge.
Sister Zeleznik taught her students to dress conservatively and professionally as well as to master business skills. Graduates of the St. Genevieve School for Secretaries earned reputations as highly trained and professional women who were employed by prestigious firms around the area as well as by the FBI.