Remembering Sister Jane Scully

Sister Jane Scully (1917-2018), the sixth president of Carlow University, who became the first woman to serve on boards in the corporate and civic worlds in Pittsburgh, died on Saturday, February 17, 2018, at the Sisters of Mercy Convent in Oakland, located on the Carlow campus.

Sister Jane, who turned 100 years of age in November, became president of Carlow—then known as Mount Mercy College—in 1966. Three years later, the school underwent a name change to become Carlow College, a name that would last until Carlow achieved university status in 2004 and became Carlow University.

Sister ScullyAt the time of the change from Mount Mercy to Carlow, according to Sister Jane, a new name had been discussed for 40 years because of confusion with other colleges that shared the same name or something similar. “A college needs to have an identity of its own and that’s what Carlow College will be,” she told a reporter from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in a 1969 interview about the name change. In a 2004 interview with the Post-Gazette, she recalled the name change a bit more colorfully.

"There were more than 30 Mount-Mercy-Mary kind of college names, and I wanted to get this fine school out from the M's in the middle. Carlow is the name of the town in Ireland where the Mercies came from. It's short and strong, and right up at the top of the alphabet."

“Sister Jane Scully was an exceptional leader during a time of great change for the university in particular and for society in general,” said Suzanne K. Mellon, PhD, the tenth and current president of Carlow University.

“One of the first people I heard about when I became president of Carlow was Sister Jane. She was a notable woman leader of her time, setting an example that is still talked about today. She had the ability to create, engage others, and work toward a clear and inspiring vision that others could follow. While she served as a clear trailblazer for women, her work ethic, warmth, and great sense of humor was apparent to all. She will be missed, not just by the Sisters of Mercy and Carlow University, but by many people throughout western Pennsylvania.”

Sister Jane was a Carlow graduate who was trained to be a librarian, but she became a leader in the higher education, business, and civic worlds. Leading Carlow until 1982, her service of 16 years as president is the third longest tenure in the university’s history.

Sister Jane ScullyWhile president of Carlow University, she was invited to serve on the board of Gulf Oil Corporation. She served ten years on Gulf’s board, through its takeover by Chevron in the mid-1980s. She also became the first woman to be a member of the Duquesne Club, Pittsburgh’s Economic Development Commission, the board of the Pennsylvania Public Television Network Commission, and the board of the Allegheny County Port Authority.

In an interview with the United Press International in 1981, she recalled being asked by a television reporter at the time of her appointment to the Port Authority’s board if, as a woman, she felt qualified to be a board member. “’I told him I didn’t know of a man on the board who had as much business experience as I had,’ she said sweetly.”

As president, Sister Jane is remembered fondly by students and faculty alike.

“I would qualify her as a champion for women, said Cynthia Busin Nicola, PhD, a professor of business management who was a student at Carlow while Sister Jane was president. Nicola told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Sister Jane encouraged students to take advantage of the opportunities presented to them. “I believe she followed this herself her whole life.”

Jim Kelly, PhD, a professor of social work, interviewed her extensively for an oral history project on the Sisters of Mercy. Kelly described her as unafraid to speak up for her college and for women. “She was one of the feistiest, strongest people I’ve had a chance to talk with,” he told the Post-Gazette.

Following her tenure as president, Sister Jane received the Women of Spirit® award and the Carlow Laureate Award. She is survived by her brother, Joseph Scully, Sr., of Squirrel Hill, and many nieces and nephews.

By Drew Wilson