Loyola University Chicago

Women and Leadership Archives


Mary Alma Sullivan, BVM

Mary Alma Sullivan, BVM

Mary Alma Sullivan was born January 2, 1930 at St. Phillip Mary Parish on the Southeast side of Chicago, Illinois. She was the oldest of four children with three younger brothers. When she was in seventh grade, the family moved into a house her parents built in Edgewood, Illinois. She attended Immaculata High School, then went on to attend Mundelein College in 1948, graduating with a major in English and minors in History and Philosophy in 1951.

Mary Alma Sullivan, Mundelein College Class Photo, 1951

Mary Alma’s student activities included editing and writing for the student literary publication, Mundelein College Review, as well as for the poetry anthology, Quest, in her senior year. As an English major, Mary Alma took classes from Irma Corcoran, BVM, and she remembered Sister Irma as being an inspiring teacher and mentor. Sister Irma’s room, 506, was where all the literary publications were, so Mary Alma spent a lot of time there. The two women ended up developing a friendship that lasted the rest of Sister Mary Irma Corcoran’s life (she passed away in 2000).

Mary Alma remarked that she felt freer as a woman after attending Mundelein College because she saw “women doing everything. The President of the college, the dean, the heads of departments, the people on the recruiting end, all of those things, the business end, all of those people were women.” This inspired her to become a Sister of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) herself, although she admitted to not realizing this reasoning at the time.

After graduating from Mundelein College, Mary Alma entered the order of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) in September of 1953 where she took the religious name Robert Emmett. She served as the BVM Multi-Media Board Chairman from 1968 to 1972. She later attended Loyola University Chicago to earn a Master's in English in 1965. She also pursued a Master's in Speech: Radio, TV-Film from Northwestern University, which she earned in 1971.

photo from bvmsisters.org

Mary Alma Sullivan, BVM from bvmsisters.org


Sister Mary Alma began teaching at Mundelein College in 1970 as an English teacher and went on to teach Communications. As a member of the Mundelein faculty, she was particularly interested in social justice issues. After Mundelein College affiliated with Loyola University Chicago in 1991, Sister Mary Alma stayed on and became an Associate Professor of Communications. Upon her retirement from Loyola in 1994, she was appointed Professor Emeritus in the Communications department.

Hear more about Sister Mary Alma Sullivan’s life through her oral history on the Voices from Mundelein: Media Portal and obituary.