Loyola University profiled her last year on her 96th birthday (check out the video here), but she’s still going strong at 97.
This is pretty great:
Picture this: A 97-year-old woman, maybe 5 feet tall, is part of a huddle with Division I men’s basketball players. She’s wearing a Loyola University Chicago sweatshirt and a maroon-and-gold scarf. Her Nikes are also the school colors, and if you look closely, you’ll notice “SISTER” is stitched into the left heel and “JEAN” on the right. “Good and gracious God,” she says, the start of all her pregame prayers. The players bow their heads, some close their eyes. Their arms naturally reach around each other’s shoulders. Sister Jean settles for the hips. She tells them to watch out for Nos. 3, 5, 13, 23 and 24 on the other team. “Don’t let the refs get under your skin,” she continues. “Hold those hands up so they don’t think you made a foul. If somebody flops on the floor, just ignore them.” There are smiles among the players as she sends them onto the court: “Good and gracious God … let’s get a big ‘W’ after our name.” Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt is the chaplain for the men’s basketball team at Loyola, a Jesuit school along Lake Michigan on the North Side of Chicago. Sister Jean, as she’s known, is the team’s most loyal fan and a campus celebrity. She’s attended all but maybe two home games since becoming the chaplain in 1994, after she retired from teaching in the school’s education department. Sister Jean can’t walk more than 10 feet in Gentile Arena without someone saying “hello.” Recently, fans and administrators have been offering congratulations on her induction into the Loyola Athletics Hall of Fame last month. She’d been awarded a plaque at halftime of a game, and she quickly showed it off to an eager section of students. “I felt like an Olympian running around the track with the American flag,” she says with a laugh.