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Two out of the six Elizabeth A. Seton Awards given this year were received by women who began their life’s journey at Marygrove College in Detroit. Nancy A. Geschke,’64 and her husband, Charles M. Geschke and Lorraine A. Ozar, ‘68 were honored Oct. 1 at the Annual St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Awards Ceremony in Washington, D.C. It is the highest honor given by the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA). 

One Saint. Two Distinguished Alums. Three C’s.

Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774-1821) is popularly known in this country as a patron saint of Catholic education. She was born in late eighteenth century America, a time when the original thirteen colonies were not tolerant of Catholicism, or Popery, a then commonly used pejorative. Life was hard. Saint Elizabeth Seton was only 46 when she died, but was able to accomplish more in those short years for American Catholic education than most could do in a lifetime.

Elizabeth was born in the colony of New York to a prominent Episcopalian family. After enduring more than her share of typical hardships of the day— including severe illness, the deaths of many loved ones and abject poverty— she sought comfort in the Roman Catholic faith and converted in 1805 at the age of 31. Several friends and family members rejected her.

“Perseverance is a great grace” Elizabeth Ann Seton

Undaunted, she formed the first free Catholic school in the United States in 1809, which pre-dated the launch of the parochial school system by almost 50 years. Her Americanized teachings were based on the traditions of the Daughters of Charity in Paris. Over time, the school evolved into a place where girls of all faiths, ethnicities, and of all means, could be educated with a firm foundation in the Catholic faith.

Elizabeth Ann Seton, or Mother Seton as she came to be known, was a pioneer in this country for making education accessible not just for a privileged few, but for all.

Because of her progressive legacy in quality Catholic education, Elizabeth was canonized as the first native-born saint in the United States in 1975 by Pope Paul VI. The Elizabeth Ann Seton Awards honor others who perform heroic acts in education.

We are a proud reflection of our alumni.

Fast-forward to 1964. Nancy McDonough Geschke was a student at Marygrove College in Detroit in the early 1960s—a time when the ecumenical spirit of Vatican II was emerging and modern education reform was a fairly new concept. It was a restless decade that began with President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural speech in 1961, where he implored all citizens to “…ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.”

Nan, as her friends call her, earned her undergraduate degree in history and political science. In her freshman year, she met her future husband at a religious conference on social action. She and Charles Geschke, with whom she shares this award, married shortly after graduation. In the early years, Nan taught school while Charles earned his Ph.D. in computer science at Carnegie Mellon.

In the 1970s, Nancy and Charles packed up the family and moved to Northern California, unaware that they were on their way to becoming respected pioneers in the newly established Silicon Valley. Charles co-founded Adobe Systems Inc. in 1982, which grew into one of the world’s largest software companies.

Always a lover of reading and writing, Nancy earned a master’s degree in library science from San Jose State University, while busy raising three children. She went on to manage the Westinghouse Facility library, and served as Sales Director and Consultant for a library placement firm before setting her sights on fulltime volunteer work in the mid-90s.

The Geschkes have shared their blessings in countless ways, particularly through the Charles M. Geschke and Nancy A. Geschke Foundation, which serves this nation’s youth by “keeping Catholic Schools vital and available for the next generation.” Marygrove College has been a proud recipient of the Geschkes’ generosity, notably through their donation of the Nancy A. McDonough Geschke Writing Center, in 2009.The foundation has sponsored thirty scholarships for Marygrove students.

Upon receiving her Distinguished Alumni Award from her alma mater in 2009, she was quoted as saying, “At Marygrove, I learned that you are expected to use your education on behalf of other people, to make a difference somewhere.”

Nancy will be involved in guiding the College in its urban leadership vision as a newly appointed member of the Marygrove College Board of Trustees.

“Nan’s gifts have made our writing center an indispensable fixture for our students here at Marygrove,” said Marygrove College President David J. Fike. “We are thrilled to welcome her talent and energy to the Board.”

She lives with her husband Charles in Los Altos, California.

“God has given me a great deal to do…” Elizabeth Ann Seton

A few years after Nancy Geschke left campus, Lorraine Ozar, Ph.D. graduated from Marygrove College summa cum laude in 1968 amidst one of the most tempestuous eras in American History. Civil rights were becoming a reality. The cry for education reform, along with the bellows for social reform echoed far and wide, as baby boomers flooded the higher educational system in record numbers, and made their voices heard like never before.

On the homefront, Detroit was recovering from deadly and destructive civil unrest. Lorraine was Student Body President. As a direct result of a student survey that showed support for more diversity on campus, the college launched its groundbreaking “68 for ‘68” in September, a scholarship program that encouraged greater access to education by offering a scholarship to one African American student at every Detroit Public High School in Detroit, and select urban parochial schools.

After what Dr. Ozar called “…a very rigorous, relevant liberal arts education…at Marygrove,” she attended Fordham University in New York where she earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in philosophy. She was driven to be a scholar at a time when many of the norms in education were being questioned, and revised, for good.

Her list of achievements is long; her career spanning almost four decades in education has yielded many accolades leading to this one, including the NCEA Secondary Department Award, a National Defense Education Act (NDEA) Fellowship at Fordham and the North Central Association Illinois State Recognition and Leadership Award, among others.

She is a nationally known scholar in curriculum and instruction in Catholic schools, and lectures around the world on the importance of high quality Catholic education. One of her books, Creating a Curriculum that Works: A Guide to Outcomes-Centered Curriculum Decision Making, is in its 11th edition.

Former classmate and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Marygrove, Jane Hammang-Buhl, recalls that Lorraine’s interest in gender equity led her to become part of the administrative team that implemented a successful new model for coeducation when the largest Jesuit high school in the U.S. merged with a sister school in 1994. “At the national level, Lorraine is recognized as a visionary leader.”

Ozar was Associate Headmaster for Faculty and Curriculum Development and Academic Dean at Loyola Academy for 10 years before joining the faculty at Loyola University Chicago where she currently serves as Associate Professor. She is the Founding Director of the Loyola Center for Catholic School Effectiveness, the first-ever center dedicated to providing professional development for teachers in Catholic schools.

Education is the family business in the Ozar household, as Dr. Ozar, her husband and two daughters all make their careers in higher education. Dr. Ozar lives with her husband David in Evanston, Illinois.

Marygrove College salutes its distinguished alumnae: Two extraordinary women who are influenced not only by the important times in which they live, but also through the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who ingrained the significance of competence, compassion, and commitment in education. They continue to define and redefine Catholic education through their acts, their gifts and their leadership. 

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