Becoming a bobblehead without getting big-headed: Sister Jean dishes on Loyola’s NCAA run, her abrupt fame and her advice to Charles Barkley By Ted Gregory
The front page of the summer edition of Loyola University Chicago’s student newspaper reports that men’s basketball ticket sales for next season have bounced higher than Clayton Custer’s game-winning rim shot against Tennessee — up 170 percent.
On the back page is a story noting that the Ramblers’ extraordinary run to the NCAA Final Four brought the university more than $300 million in publicity. And above that article is a photo of one of the most recognizable and enduring symbols of that journey: 98-year-old global darling Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt.
She’s back in her office now, on the first floor of the Damen Student Center. Often her head is down and she is focused on work. But Sister Jean keeps her door open. When passers-by recognize who she is, they pause, holding their phones, debating whether to interrupt.
“When I see them, you know what I say? I say, ‘Come on in. You wanna take a selfie?’” she said.
She certainly has brought joy to the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, her order based in Dubuque, Iowa. The organization reports that contributions in March and early April tied directly to Sister Jean totaled about $20,000. Several thousand dollars more has come in through other gifts with Sister Jean links, an order spokesman said.
Along the way, Sister Jean collected a few fun stories, like when she chatted with sports legend Charles Barkley, now a basketball analyst on TV, before an interview.
“I said, ‘Charles, You’re a great reporter,’” she recalled. “‘You do your homework. You know what you’re talking about. You’re great on the TV, but when you were a player, you never smiled, and I thought that was a disservice to young people who are passionate about their sport.’