Long before words like "ecology" and "sustainability" became popular, Sister Ann Gabriel Kilsdonk was teaching others to use their talents and the gifts of the earth.
Kilsdonk has taught in the department of family and consumer sciences (a.k.a. home economics and human ecology) at Marygrove College since 1958. Concurrently, she headed the department for 25 years and chaired the division of professional studies for nearly 20 years.
In 1975 she received the prestigious Ellen H. Richards Fellowship from the American Home Economics Association. That same year she received the Marie Dye Scholarship from the Michigan Home Economics Association. Both awards helped finance her doctoral degree in family ecology. She received her master's degree and PhD from Michigan State University.
Kilsdonk's published monograph, "Human Ecology: Meaning and Usage," which was well received throughout the United States, Canada and Japan, resulted in her being named one of 100 Outstanding Alumni of the College of Human Ecology at Michigan State University during their centennial celebration. Kilsdonk credits Marygrove College with teaching her to think logically and analytically, which has served her well in her career. She made lasting friends through her participation in the So Bheas Club, later serving as faculty adviser to the club from 1964 to 1998.
During her years at Marygrove, Kilsdonk was involved in many committees, most notably the curriculum committee,on which she served for more than 25 years. Some consider her to be the "unofficial Marygrove historian" and regularly consult with her regarding curriculum procedures and policies. "She serves as an informal college historian and archivist, working tirelessly to maintain accurate records of college meetings, proceedings and events. Whenever someone inquires about any aspect of Marygrove history, Sister Ann can be counted on to remember the details and provide documentation," says colleague Judith A. Heinen.
"Sister Ann was ahead of her time in requiring students to build professional contacts and to engage in community service," Heinen continued. "Personally, she has served as a true inspiration to me. She is a dedicated religious woman, a woman of integrity, who has committed her considerable talents to forwarding the mission of Marygrove, and to educating students in that direction."
Though Kilsdonk retired from Marygrove's full time faculty in 1998, she continues teaching as an adjunct in the clothing and textiles area and serving others. From 1999 to 2001 she was the co-director of the Detroit Public Schools Curriculum Review and Alignment Project for Family Life Education. She also received an Ameritech grant to introduce computer-aided design for apparel making into Marygrove's academic and continuing education curriculum.
College students continue to receive the benefit of her wisdom. "Do not lose the love of learning you acquired at Marygrove," she says. "Nurture it throughout your life in formal, and informal, ways. One can always grow mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally, and creatively."
"The beauty of Sister Kilsdonk is that she has given so much of herself to thousands of people. The halls of Marygrove resonate with her spirit of kindness, compassion and commitment to propel ordinary lives to extraordinary achievements," says Theadoris Baker '95.
"Have great faith in the providence of God," says Kilsdonk. "In retrospect you can always see how the quirks in your life are God's way of preparing you for the various roles you have been able to fill."