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Xavier Magazine | June 22, 2017

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Profile: Sr. Mary Delora Brinker

By France Griggs Sloat

Sr. Mary Delora Brinker
Bachelor of Arts in philosophy, Our Lady of Cincinnati, 1937 | Retired Mercy Center director, Cincinnati

Claim to Fame | Brinker was a member of the first full class to graduate from Our Lady of Cincinnati, later renamed Edgecliff College, one year after its founding in 1935, and one of two surviving members from that class of five. She turned 90 in October.

In Style | Brinker began thinking about becoming a nun as a high school student in Villa Hills, Ky. On Sept. 6, 1937, three months after her college graduation, she entered the Sisters of Mercy and has been wearing the traditional veil and habit ever since. The Gift | “I gave my life and everything to God, and I would not take it back,” she says.

Best Friends | While at Our Lady, Brinker met Sr. Mary Virginia Sullivan, the first dean of the college. They began a lifelong friendship that influenced Delora to choose the Sisters of Mercy.

Back to School | From 1940 to 1946, Brinker taught math at Mother of Mercy High School in Cincinnati. She also earned a Master of Education from the University of Cincinnati in 1944 and a master’s in philosophy from Catholic University.

Homecoming | Sullivan called Brinker back to the college to be the dean of students. She also taught philosophy, religion and psychology. As dean, she was charged with overseeing the welfare of the women living on campus, enforcing the curfews and dress codes.

House Mother | “I tried to be strict. I tried to make them women. If you came in late on a Saturday night, you couldn’t go out on Sunday,” she says. The women were not allowed out during the week and had to be in by 11:00 p.m. on the weekends. “I was more strict than others,” she says.

Cover Up | Brinker says some of the girls would try to wear shorts off campus when it was not allowed. “They would put their coats on and pull them close, but it would expose them in back, and I would send them back up to change.”

Moving Up | By 1960, Sullivan, then president of the college, promoted Brinker to academic dean. As an administrator, she dealt with all the “nitty gritty” details. The sisters often drove around the city, Brinker at the wheel, to shop. Mercy, Mercy | In 1969, she moved to the Mercy Center to be the director as well as a resident. In 1976, she received the Sr. Mary Virginia Sullivan Award given to outstanding Edgecliff graduates. She survived a stroke in 1990 but keeps active in her religious community.

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