Former president of Barry University dies at 90

Sister Jeanne O'Laughlin served as president of university for 23 years

MIAMI SHORES, Fla. – Sister Jeanne O'Laughlin, president of Barry University for 23 years, died Tuesday morning at the age of 90.

The Dominican nun helped many people around the world, and it was her hard work and dedication that put Barry University on the map.

O'Laughlin was born May 4, 1929, in Detroit, Michigan, to Thomas and Mary O'Laughlin.

Her mother died when she was 6, also leaving behind a 2-week-old girl, 7-year-old boy and 9-year-old girl.

In 1945, O'Laughlin became a nun at age 16 and followed her calling to be an educator.

Between 1950 and 1970, she taught in Arizona. She then went on to become an administrator, superintendent and consultant.

In 1981, O'Laughlin was named the fifth president of Barry University.

At the time, it was a struggling college with about 2,000 students, most of whom were women. 

Tim Czerniec, senior vice president for business and finance at Barry, worked with O'Laughlin throughout her presidency.

"She has been a major factor in the development of this institution, particularly over the last 20 years, where a lot of her energy and drive has caused a lot of things to happen," he said.

Under her leadership, Barry's student body increased to more than 9,000 people, 38 buildings were added and more than $200 million was raised.

In an interview before her death, Arlene Scott, assistant vice president for mission and ministry at Barry University, described her friend and colleague.

"She has a great zest for life," Scott said. "She loves people. She draws her energy from the students, from the staff, from the faculty, from her family."

Scott said O'Laughlin had a huge heart and "tremendous capacity for giving to others. She's very generous."

A bout with lung cancer didn't slow O'Laughlin down in 1996. In fact, she went public after her operation and raised awareness and funds for the American Cancer Society.

O'Laughlin also rubbed elbows with presidents, politicians and journalists and was a respected leader in the community. She was honored many times by various organizations.

O'Laughlin retired as president of Barry University in June 2004.

Her tremendous love for others, for her students and for this community will not be forgotten.

Her contributions to this world will live on for years to come.   

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