NEWPORT — Mercy Sister Lucille McKillop, the fifth president of Salve Regina and the longest-serving president in university history, died Feb. 28 in Chicago. Sister Lucille served as president of Salve Regina from 1973 to 1994.
“Sister Lucille McKillop was first a Sister of Mercy,” said President M. Therese Antone, RSM. “Her dedication to education and the traditions of the Sisters of Mercy contributed significantly to those traditions continuing to thrive on the campus of Salve Regina University. Sister Lucille worked diligently to serve the needs and interests of generations of students. The best years of her life were spent ensuring that the mission of Salve Regina University would continue. McKillop Library, named in her honor, is a fitting tribute to her enabling spirit. She was deeply admired and will be missed.”
A memorial service was held March 5 at Salve Regina’s Ochre Court.
During her 21 years as president, Sister McKillop led the university through a critical period marked by challenges in finances, enrollment, academic offerings and direction. When she assumed the presidency in 1973, the college of 1,000 students was marked by a $1 million deficit and an operating budget of just $1.2 million.
“A lot of people want to talk about how we erased deficits in the first few years and got the college back on its feet, and that’s all true,” she told Newport This Week in January 1994. “But I prefer to talk about what we’ve done since then in building the college into a university which I believe has advanced far ahead of comparable institutions.”
On the occasion of her 20th anniversary as president in April 1993, university trustees wrote: “Sister Lucille’s leadership has been a combination of knowledge, wisdom and faith. The trustees wished to capture the magnitude of her vision in a way that makes visible the fundamental teaching mission of the Sisters of Mercy. As a lasting commemoration of (her) educational leadership and the university library will from this day forward bear the name to honor Sister Lucille McKillop.”
Sister McKillop received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from St. Xavier University in Chicago, a master’s degree in mathematics from the University of Notre Dame and a doctorate in mathematics curriculum and instruction from the University of Wisconsin in Madison. She was awarded honorary degrees from several institutions, including Bryant University, Johnson & Wales University, Roger Williams University, Rivier College, the New England Institute of Technology, Providence College and Salve Regina.
She was the recipient of numerous awards, including the Medal of Honor, Compassionate of Merit in the rank order of Officer Military and Hospitaller Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem; National Conference of Christians and Jews Inc. Brotherhood Award; Mercy Higher Education Colloquium Award for Excellence and Leadership in Higher Education; Rhode Island Distinguished Service Star awarded by Gov. Bruce G. Sundlun; and the Hope Award from the Rhode Island Commission on Women.
Following her tenure as president of Salve Regina, Sister McKillop assumed the role of president of the Religious Sisters of Mercy, Regional Community of Chicago.