Giving Thanks to the Keeper of the Bell

Community reflects upon the work and legacy of Sister Georgeann

By Mount Mary University

Posted on April 10, 2019

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With an almost superhuman ability to be practically everywhere on campus at once, walkie-talkie in hand and keys jingling at her side, S. Georgeann Krzyzanowski ’66 has been a constant force for over 40 years.

Last November, she handed in her keys before moving into retirement at the School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND) campus in Elm Grove, Wisconsin. As she settles into the next chapter of her life, our campus community reflects on the 40-plus year career of one of our most cherished and well-known staff members.

Like so many of the Sisters who had been responsible for operating and managing the educational, spiritual and practical needs of the campus, S. Georgeann assumed many of her duties as needs arose. She came to campus with the purpose of teaching geography – and did so for eight years – before she took on the role of assisting S. Mary John Vonderen, the original director of buildings and grounds. S. Georgeann worked closely with S. Mary John, who oversaw the original construction of Mount Mary in 1929. Eventually, she took on the role of director of buildings and grounds in 1987.

Over the years, as the number of SSNDs on campus continued to dwindle, S. Georgeann picked up many of the tasks that were embedded in the fabric of the institution.

She took over the job of baking fruitcakes from S. Mary John and over the span of 30 years, S. Georgeann’s fruitcakes raised over $50,000 in proceeds. She started the S. Georgeann Fruitcake Endowed Scholarship in 2008 from her annual sales. This scholarship is given to single mothers or returning students who are pursuing a degree in education.

She kept up Mount Mary’s tradition of being a weather observer from S. Mary Felice Vaudreuil, a professor and chairperson in math, who was a volunteer weather observer 20 years. The responsibility shifted to other sisters until the role of taking weather measurements was passed down to S. Georgeann. She did this, twice daily, for over 30 years and gained recognition from the National Weather Service in 2018, when Mount Mary was recognized for 50 years of continual weather reporting.

“If the other sisters weren’t here, I would do it,” she told a reporter in 2018. “And that’s how I acquired the job. It’s the way we acquire jobs around here sometimes. You’re there – OK, I will do it!”

S. Georgeann knew early on she wanted to become a nun, and so after eighth grade, she left her hometown of the Milwaukee east side and entered the SSND aspiranture at Saint Mary’s Academy in Prairie du Chien. She received her bachelor’s degree in history, then earned a master’s degree from Mount Mary in science, education and history, with a concentration in geography.

S. Georgeann’s willingness to serve is clear by the many hats she’s worn (and in the literal sense, one of which is a Packers hard hat, forever memorialized in a mural outside of the Alumnae Dining Room). She’s held additional roles such as temporary stage manager and events coordinator.

And armed with a tool belt, walkie-talkie, and a keychain that seemed to hold a key for every door on campus, perhaps the role S. Georgeann filled best was as a helping hand, always ready and willing to help those in need.

“S. Georgeann is the person to see to attend to all of your needs, body and soul,” reporter Meg Kissinger wrote in a profile in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in the mid 2000s.

“S. Georgeann changes light bulbs, directs traffic, fries fish and occasionally works the bar at college events.”

S. Georgeann was as well-known for her interests as for her attention to campus. As an avid Star Trek fan, her office was decorated with Star Trek memorabilia … and pink flamingos. One year, after a visit to her uncle and mother in Florida, students and staff decorated the door of her Caroline Hall dorm room with pink crepe paper and a giant pink flamingo. The incident prompted others to gift her hundreds of pink flamingos over the years. Pink became her signature color and when the community celebrated Mass in her honor before her departure, Our Lady Chapel was awash in rosy hues, from the covering on the altar to the clothes of the community members celebrating S. Georgeann.

Now, even several months into retirement, S. Georgeann hasn’t stopped helping those around her. “They ask for help with things, and they keep me busy. I’m staying out of mischief,” S. Georgeann said in March.

“She was the keeper of the treasured bell in the tower and so proud of every inch of this campus, which was her home,” said Pam Owens, Vice President for Alumnae and Development. “Living on campus in addition to working long hours every day, she touched the lives of virtually everyone who walked these halls.  The pride and love she put into everything Mount Mary is her legacy.”

Though the campus won’t be the same without S. Georgeann’s dedication, generosity and one-of-a-kind personality, many blessings and memories remain. And as each of us reflect on the legacy of S. Georgeann Krzyzanowski, both as individuals and as a community, we do so with smiles and warm hearts.

In the words of your beloved Star Trek, you have helped this community live long and prosper. Thank you, S. Georgeann, for all you have done.

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