Closing One Set of Books and Taking Charge of Another

The term “final” is taking on new meaning this year for Sister Jeanne Marie Lust aka Dr. Lust, for on May 9, the veteran College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University biology professor gave the final final (test) of her career, officially closing the books on 41 years of teaching. Her upcoming retirement also marks the end of an era as next year will be the first year in the college’s 110-year history that a sister from the founding monastery will not be on the faculty.

As one could imagine, such a change does not come without mixed emotions. On one hand, S. Jeanne Marie, age 71, is looking forward to retirement. She says, “I’m ready to be finished with the continuous demand of having to be ready for class every day and meet all the endless deadlines. But then I think of all the different things that I’ll never do again: my lecture notes—I’ll never use them again; I’ll never go to that office again or set up for lab or do the labs with the students…and that’s a little sad. I will miss my friends in the biology department as well.”

When asked what she has liked most about teaching, her answers reveal the kind of teacher she has been: “I have enjoyed being with students in lab when they get to see exciting things for the first time (early development of a chick, for example). I really liked thinking up new assignments and study activities to use…and figuring out how best to explain complicated concepts.”

S. Jeanne Marie says she has always loved the subject matter and the challenge of learning new things, so she will miss the mental stimulation of having to stay abreast of the latest developments in her field. All of these “likes” attest to why she has been such a sought-after and highly respected teacher all these years: she has cared about her students’ experience, loved what she does, continued to improve, and amassed a large working knowledge of her subject matter.

Through her excellent teaching and dedicated service these past 33 years at CSB+SJU, S. Jeanne Marie has touched many lives and been a stabilizing presence both in the biology department and in the institutions. She has taught more than 4,000 students, helped mold many iterations of curriculum, served as biology department chair, and been elected to the Joint Faculty Senate and multiple CSB+SJU committees.

Her impact and contributions have not gone unnoticed, and her colleagues unanimously sing her praises:

  • She has been nominated three times for the Sister Mary Grell CSB+SJU Teaching Award, a testament to the consistency and caliber of her teaching.
  • In a report to Academic Affairs for S. Jeanne Marie’s retirement acknowledgment, biology department chair Jennifer Schaefer said: “Dr. Lust is an excellent teacher, with students and colleagues unanimously praising her dedication and effectiveness. She takes care to get to know each of her students and to provide each with encouragement and supervision. She is truly a student-focused teacher.”
  • Lab coordinator, colleague and friend Carol Jansky “wants to see Jeanne acknowledged in every way possible.” She feels “Jeanne is, without a doubt, one of the best teachers we have had at CSB+SJU. She is always improving—even during this last semester of her career. When I am preparing the lab manual, she excels at revising and editing. There is no one who is better. I will greatly miss her. I frequently hear from students about how they like how she teaches—she breaks down concepts into their elemental components and then ties it all together. I wish I was as strong a teacher as she is!”
  • Colleague Mike Reagan admitted he has turned to S. Jeanne Marie “many, many times over the years for advice about how to handle situations in the classroom” and has always found her advice to be “full of common sense and wisdom.”
  • Steve Saupe, a retired long-time biology professor, said, “Jeanne has been an outstanding member of the department since her arrival. She was an excellent chair, supportive of faculty and students, and very systematic and organized. She is an excellent teacher and her classes, especially Introduction to Biology, were highly sought. She was ‘the’ prof to get.”
  • Elizabeth Wurdak, another retired colleague, summed it up this way: “In my mind, Jeanne is the ‘teachers’ teacher.’ Even after years of teaching a course, she prepared anew for every class. She served CSB+SJU, the biology department, and her profession with utmost dedication.”

Perhaps the most telling feedback, however, comes from her students. Hosanna Fortmeyer, a former student, put it this way: “Professor Lust stands out as an example of someone who has embraced her vocation—a beautifully integrated life as both a sister and a biology professor. She cared about her students and would do anything she could to help us learn and succeed in her classes.”

Another former student, Toni Gohman, also gushed with praise: “Dr. Lust was one of the kindest, most passionate professors that I had the joy of learning from at CSB+SJU. Her excitement for exploring the field of biology was palpable during her lessons and labs, which made her classes stand out to me. There were times I seriously considered a career in developmental biology because of how much I enjoyed her classes. I loved learning from her and often reflect fondly on my time as her student.”

And how will S. Jeanne Marie spend her retirement? If it were up to her, she would be spending more time on the golf course. A four-time women’s club champion and nine-time senior women’s club champion at Rich Spring Golf Club, she is no stranger to the game. It has been a nice release from the stress of teaching over the years and a wonderful reward after the school year is over.

Though she will have a little more time to get on the course, do some gardening, play guitar, and watch sports (other activities she enjoys), S. Jeanne Marie will not have the “free” time that most retirees enjoy. Her intellectual acumen, collegial leadership skills, and caring and kind nature will be put to a different kind of service after “retirement,” for Sister Karen Rose, prioress-elect, has asked her to serve on her leadership team as treasurer of the monastic community for the next six years. Always willing to serve, but knowing herself well, before saying yes to taking charge of the monastery’s financial books, she negotiated an agreement that allowed for regular visits to the golf course.

Dear S. Jeanne Marie, because you have been getting ready for school every fall for 66 straight years (since you were five), this coming fall will no doubt be a disorienting time for you. May you be buoyed up in this time of mixed emotions by the recognition of how many lives you have touched and the gratitude those people have for your years of education and kindness. Well done, Dr. Lust!

Janine Mettling, OSB

This article was featured on pages 6–7 in the spring 2023 issue of Benedictine Sisters and Friends.