The Mother Bartholomew, OSF, Lifetime Achievement Award


Sister Justine Peter, OSF, Ph.D., professor emerita, served Cardinal Stritch University for more than 30 years as a history professor, department chair, and academic dean. She continues to serve in her retirement as an active member of the Alumni Association Board of Directors. 



At the age of 16, Mary Peter (as she was known before she became Sister Justine) left her home in Longmont, Colorado, with five high school friends to become a Sister of St. Francis of Assisi. They traveled by train to Milwaukee and finished their final year of high school as postulants at St. Mary’s Academy in St. Francis. The Sisters were teachers and administrators in the grade school in Longmont, which was a mission school of the Sisters. Sister Justine says she didn’t know the term role model at the time, but that’s what the Sisters were to her. “They were just wonderful and so full of joy. That’s what I wanted,” she says.



Teachers were in great demand at Catholic schools in the 1940s because of robust enrollment. Sister Justine was assigned to two grade school teaching assignments while she worked on obtaining her bachelor’s degree. She claims to have hated the subject of history until she got to Loyola University in Chicago and began working on her master’s degree. Up until then, history had been about men and wars, but a teacher at Loyola opened her mind to the full scale of history. She began to understand how economy, religion, philosophy, politics and culture are inter-related in the events of history. She found it all fascinating and became passionate about it, a passion she passed on to her students for decades.



Sister Justine taught 6th grade in Chicago the entire time she was working on her master’s degree. She was able to devote full time to study when she began work on her doctorate. She was encouraged by one of Loyola University’s Jesuit priests to apply for a Fulbright Scholarship, which she received. She completed the research for her dissertation at Queen Mary College, University of London.



Sister Justine holds a bachelor of philosophy degree in English from Cardinal Stritch University, and both a master of arts degree and doctorate in history from Loyola University in Chicago.



In addition to her faculty and administrative roles at Stritch, Sister Justine’s Curriculum Vitae includes national and international guest lectures. She holds fond memories of directing two study tours to Europe for Stritch students and alumni. She served as the faculty advisor to the Model UN, which traveled to St. Louis, Boston and New York City. She also has great memories of the students involved in the International Relations Club and the National Federation of Catholic College Students, both of which she moderated. Through it all, she loved her students and loved teaching.



“You take them as they are, and pull out of them what they can be,” she said.



Sister Justine was admittedly concerned about the impact of co-education in the 1960s on the culture of Stritch. “Our young women were leaders and risk-takers; I didn’t want them to lose that to the men,” she says. “But I don’t think they did.” She held the post of academic dean when Stritch began the program now known as the College of Business and Management. She insisted that the program include a humanities component, so she co-authored and co-taught (with Sister Coletta Dunn, ’60, professor emerita) three interdisciplinary modules that were published by the Institute for Professional Development in 1986 and incorporated into the curriculum for students in the College of Business and Management.



These days, in addition to her service on the Stritch Alumni Association Board of Directors, Sister Justine enjoys reading. She reads every issue of Commonweal and The Tablet from cover to cover. She also participates in a book discussion group at the St. Francis Seminary. She travels to Colorado to visit family nearly every summer.