sister olive louis dallavis

January 25, 1921 - December 1, 2016

A woman with an unfailing smile, foresight, 
simplicity, humility.
Louis and Olivia (Odorizzi) Dallavis of Nokomis, Illinois, welcomed their third child and first daughter on January 25, 1921. Her godmother named her Mary Tullia. Another son and daughter completed the family. Her parents were born in Italy but met each other in Nokomis where her father was a coal miner. The mines closed during the Depression and her father moved the family to St. Louis in search of employment. 
Mary attended St. John’s School, staffed by Sisters of St. Joseph. Graduating from Rosati-Kain High School, she entered the Sisters of St. Joseph on September 15, 1938. She received the habit and the name Sister Olive Louise on March 19, 1939. She earned a bachelor’s degree in music from Fontbonne College (1948) and a master's in music from the University of Illinois–Champaign (1952). 
Sister Olive Louise taught primary education at St. Thomas of Aquin (1941) and then at St. Agnes (1950), both in St. Louis. Moving to Kansas City in 1952, she taught kindergarten at Visitation. 
At the same time Sister Olive Louise was also teaching voice at the College of St. Teresa. In 1954, she taught at St. Teresa Academy, while continuing to teach at the college. 
Sister Olive Louise became a full-time faculty member at the college in 1959. Appointed dean of students and acting president in 1960, she became president of the college in 1961—a position she held until 1985. During those years, the College of St. Teresa moved to a new campus on Wornall Road and was renamed Avila College. (In 2002, Avila College became Avila University.) 
She received the title president emerita, upon retiring from the presidency. She then worked in the Advancement Office. Sister Olive held her title and position through 2009 when, after 57 years of service in Kansas City, she moved to Nazareth Living Center in St. Louis.
During her time in Kansas City, Sister Olive Louise received many awards, among them: an appreciation letter from the Department of State (1965); the (National) Beautiful Activist Award, Germaine Monteil (1973); Best College President (1974), the Kansas City Town Squire; Citizen of the Year Award, UNICO (1980); Kansas City Career Woman of the Year (1981); Lady Commander of Merit by Pope Paul VI (the first woman religious to be so honored); Honorary Degree, Doctor of Letters-Avila University (2007) and the Avila University Medal of Honor. 
Sister Marie Joan Harris writes:
In her role as president, she was a woman leader in a city that had very few women in leadership positions ... She embraced change in higher education, in the church and in her own life. She changed a small liberal arts women’s college to a coed university that serves a very diverse population, welcomes transfer students and serves both traditional and adult students ... She believed that all persons should have the opportunity to get a college education and the college needed to develop systems and cultivate relationships to help that happen.
Angela Metzger, adjunct math instructor, shares: 
I saw Sister Olive walking around the parking lot picking up trash … It made me realize how humble she was … How many presidents walk around picking up McDonald's cups off the ground? 
Associate Nicole Nicoll recalls:
I asked Sister Olive how she felt leaving Kansas City after all [her] years of work and friendships. I was touched by her response, ‘God has given me my next assignment.’ 
Sister Ruth Stuckel reflects: 
She truly was a living example and embodied St. Teresa’s motto: ‘Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing frighten you. All things are passing. God only is changeless …’
Helen Oates, CSJ
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