Sheila Powers posthumously receives Teaching Excellence Award

May 12, 2010

Lacey, Washington — Last Friday, May 7, at the McChord Field Combined Graduation Ceremony, Saint Martin’s University’s JBLM staff posthumously recognized Ms. Mary Sheila Powers as their recipient of this year’s Teaching Excellence Award. Ms. Powers, 61, passed away earlier this year in March due to breast cancer. Her husband, Dan Worthen, and her family accepted the award during the graduation ceremony, which was held at Clover Park Technical College.

At the time of her death, Ms. Powers—who was better known as Sheila—was teaching at three different schools: Tacoma Community College, Seattle University, and Saint Martin’s University. At Saint Martin’s, she taught Religious Studies courses along with Virtues and the Art of Parenting and Psychology of Religion classes for almost 18 years.

“She was fiery and confident, yet gentle and compassionate,” says Christopher Wilkinson, a Saint Martin’s student. “She was a wonder to all of her students who were willing to open their minds and hearts to her guidance and suggestions.”

Born in Utica, New York, Ms. Powers was the oldest of seven children. She moved to Detroit when she was 15 and was a member of the Adrian Dominican Sisters for over 20 years. She moved to Tacoma after marrying her husband, Dan Worthen, in 1989.

Ms. Powers graduated with a bachelor of arts in literature and history from Siena Heights College in Michigan and a master of theology and a master of divinity from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. She held teaching certifications in Washington, Maryland, and Michigan, and a Clinical Pastoral Counseling Certification for her work in hospital chaplaincy at Good Samaritan Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona. She taught in elementary grades two and four and pioneered the Family Literacy Program at Madison School, a part of Tacoma Community College.

Ms. Powers was a caring and gifted educator who held students to a higher level of compassionate academic thought. She was known for her sensitivity to the individuality of each student’s perspective on life, religion, and the power of love and she left lasting impressions on her student’s lives. As a final tribute to her love of teaching and for her students, upon learning she had but a few days to live, her first response was to ensure her students’ grades were recorded.

“Her determination and compassion toward others will never be equaled,” says Kim Van Vleet, director of Saint Martin’s McChord Distance Learning Center.

Saint Martin’s University is an independent four-year, Catholic, coeducational university located on a 380-acre wooded campus in Lacey, Washington. Established in 1895 by the Catholic Order of Saint Benedict, the University is one of 18 Benedictine colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, and the only one west of the Rocky Mountains. Saint Martin’s University prepares students for successful lives through its 21 majors and six graduate programs spanning the liberal arts, business, education and engineering. Saint Martin’s welcomes 1,250 students from many ethnic and religious backgrounds to its main campus, and 650 more to its extension campuses located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Everett College, Centralia College, and Tacoma Community College.

Genevieve Canceko Chan
Director of communications & marketing
Saint Martin’s University