You are here

Dominican mourns the loss of Sister Mary Clemente Davlin OP

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Dominican University lost a guiding light with the passing of Sister Mary Clemente Davlin, OP on December 19. Sister Clemente died at the age of 88 at St. Dominic Villa in Hazel Green, WI. She was an alumna of Rosary College (precursor of Dominican University) and taught English at the university from 1970 to 2005, after which she served as Professor Emerita. She was also one of the longest-serving musicians with the Symphony of Oak Park and River Forest, for which she played the violin since 1970.

Born on the south side of Chicago in 1929, Sr. Clemente graduated from Aquinas Dominican High School before attending Rosary College and the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where she received her master’s degree in English. She held a doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley and wrote her dissertation on Piers Plowman, a 14th century allegorical narrative poem by William Langland. Medieval literature was a lifelong passion and Sister published several works on Piers Plowman, including most recently A Journey into Love, as well as articles on Dante and other medieval writers and artists. She was the recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship as well as a Newberry Library-British Academy fellowship for her scholarly research.

Before joining Dominican, Sr. Clemente taught at Edgewood College in Wisconsin and Chicago high schools, including predominantly black DuSable High School on Chicago’s south side. At Dominican, she was particularly dedicated to underrepresented students and organized a number of programs to mentor them and support their success. The university’s annual diversity leadership award is named in her honor.

“Sr. Clemente was forever kind and loving,” said Loretta Ragsdell, a 1975 Dominican alumna. “She was my freshman English teacher and, later, my colleague when I joined the faculty of the university’s English department and again when she tutored at Malcolm X College, where I was teaching English. I was proud to refer my students to my former—and favorite—college English professor.  My life has been greatly enriched because of the friendship she and I shared.”

At her 50th reunion in 2000, Sr. Clemente received Dominican’s highest alumni honor, the Caritas Veritas Award. She was the recipient of two Excellence in Teaching Awards, in 1973 and 1997. Since the announcement of her death, the university’s social media platforms have been deluged with messages of condolence and reminiscences from the students and alumni she taught for almost 45 years.

“Sr. Clemente was the embodiment of Dominican mission—charity and truth.  A respected scholar, talented musician, beloved teacher and mentor, she lived life gracefully, and always in the service of others,” said Dominican University President Donna Carroll.

She was a devoted friend and loving colleague to her fellow Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters, with whom she shared 61 years of religious life. Preceded in death by her father, John Davlin, and mother, Mary Margaret Ryan, Sr. Clemente is survived by cousins, many friends, her Dominican sisters and the hundreds of students she nurtured and with whom she shared her love of Chaucer and Shakespeare.

The university will hold a memorial mass for Sr. Clemente on Sunday, January 21 at 11 a.m. in Rosary Chapel. For more information, please contact the Office of Alumnae/i Relations at (708) 524-6286 or