MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Former Barry University President Sister Jeanne O’Laughlin has passed away.
Sister Jeanne, who was celebrated as an educator, civic activist, and humanitarian, was the University’s fifth president. She served in that role from 1981-2004, a 23-year tenure that, at the time, was one of the longest university presidencies in the nation.
During her 23-year term as president, the University grew from 1,750 students to more than 7,000. Upon retirement as president in 2004, Sister Jeanne served as chancellor of Barry University for five years, and in 2009 Sister Jeanne became president emerita.
She was a prominent figure in the South Florida community and never hesitated to step in to help a community or individual in crisis. Early in her tenure, she worked with the Immigration and Naturalization Service offices to create a system to keep track of 300 Haitian immigrants released from the Krome Detention Center.
While very active in the fight for immigration rights, she is perhaps best known for the role that gained her national notoriety.
In 2000, just four years before she retired, she became a mediator between the Miami family of Elian Gonzalez and the federal government who would eventually seize the 6-year-old boy from their Miami home and take him back to Cuba.
She was also involved in efforts to fight against illegal drugs and homelessness and was a key figure in We Will Rebuild: the volunteer committee that led Miami-Dade’s recovery from Hurricane Andrew.
Sister Jeanne died early Tuesday morning at the Motherhouse of the Adrian Dominican Sisters in Michigan where she had been living for several years.
She was 90.
The prayer service and funeral Mass for Sister Jeanne will take place at the Motherhouse of the Dominican Sisters of Adrian, Mich., on June 24 and 25.
Barry University will plan a Memorial Service in Sister Jeanne’s honor for a future date.
O’Laughlin is survived by numerous nieces and nephews and grand-nieces and grand-nephews, as well as the nuns at the Adrian Dominican Sisters.