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In Memoriam: Maureen Scott

Maureen Scott: 1942 - 2016

SPS loses dedicated teacher, colleague

By Pete Reinwald

Zack Larson remembers the day professor Maureen Scott caught him off guard.

They were going over his School of Public Service capstone project, which emphasized racial inequality in juvenile detention. 

“She told me, ‘This is why I love doing what I’m doing -- because people like you just keep fighting for equality,” Larson said Friday by phone from his home in Washington, D.C. “That’s when she told me, ‘You know, I wanted to go for a ride on your motorcycle.’”

Shortly before her retirement in 2012, Scott got on the back of Larson’s Harley-Davidson Sportster 883, and together they zoomed the Chicago Loop and Lakeshore Drive, among other routes – enjoying another life experience while giving students and colleagues yet another surprise.

“She had a great time,” Larson said.

That story made the rounds on social media late last week upon the news that Scott had died after battling an illness for several months. She was 74.

Her death came four years after her retirement from DePaul University’s School of Public Service, where she taught for 14 years – changing lives and inspiring careers along the way.

“I was absolutely devastated by the loss of Maureen Scott,” Larson wrote in a follow-up email. 

Former colleagues remember Scott as a mentor and straight-shooter and as a hopeful and humble friend who had worked for nine years at Barat College and 11 years at Saint Xavier University before joining the School of Public Service.

For 57 years, she belonged to the Religious Sisters of Mercy, a Catholic institute dedicated to serving people who suffer from poverty, sickness and lack of education.

Fellow nuns joined Scott’s former students and colleagues and university dignitaries Saturday at a funeral mass at Chicago’s Mercy Chapel. Former School of Public Service Director J. Patrick Murphy, C.M., presided and gave the homily. Sister Susan Sanders gave the eulogy.

Murphy, who hired Scott, called her an “extraordinary teacher.” 

“She just delighted in teaching and delighted in students and delighted in student learning,” Murphy said.

Students remember Scott for her work as a thesis advisor equally quick to praise them or set them straight. In her Research Methods class, they remember how she could help them see the bigger picture when they thought they never would. On study abroad trips to Ireland, they saw in Scott, who was Irish, an even deeper fun and joy.

“The students loved her and respected her,” said Ron Fernandes, assistant director at the School of Public Service. “She was really good at explaining things in research courses, ethics courses.”

Upon hearing the news, the School of Public Service community reacted swiftly and fondly on social media. Former students and colleagues spoke of her youthfulness, cheerfulness, intellect and energy. They spoke of her warmth, wit, ethics and compassion.

 They also spoke of her bluntness, toughness and no-nonsense.

“She was an iron fist in a velvet glove,” former SPS director Bill Calzaretta wrote in an email.

Students and colleagues basked in the two sides of Maureen Scott. They appreciated her for the quickness with a compliment and adored her for her lasting lessons, even if they stung at first. 

Former student Jenny Mohan, a 2010 School of Public Service graduate, told of a time when Scott challenged her.

“I received an email from her on a Saturday night that said, ‘Delete your chapter 4 and start over. Come see me on Monday,’” Mohan wrote in an email. “She also wasn't short of giving out praise and encouragement.”

Former students emphasized that the two sides of Maureen Scott formed a dedicated educator unified in hope, excellence and concern for her students and the world around them.

“She was an amazing person with such a rich life history,” wrote Mohan, a program manager for Marillac St. Vincent Family Services who also works on a Kenyan project focusing on small-business education and women. “One of my favorite stories she told in our ethics class was from her younger days attending the protests in Chicago in the 1960s. The way she told it you sense that same passion alive in her still and authentic care and concern for humanity.”

Wrote one SPS community member on social media: “I will miss our hamburger lunches, her quantitative (yin) to my qualitative yang, and how she helped me to ‘keep the faith’ in mind, body and spirit.”

Larson, the motorcycle rider, said Scott’s servant leadership inspires his work as Twilight Academy Director at District of Columbia Public Schools.

“She had the largest impact on me in terms of public service and serving with integrity because it’s the right thing to do,” he said.