Sister Del Marie Rysavy has been teaching at Saint Cloud State since 1990. As a farm girl growing up in rural, Southern Minnesota, she would have never guessed at where life would take her; to obtain a doctorate, travel to Rome, and end up a college professor teaching computer science. It all started when she was just a child.
“My first eight grades of school were in a one room schoolhouse,” said Rysavy. The advantages of a classroom with only 30 students was not lost on her. “We learned to be very independent in our studies,” said Rysavy, “in an hour’s time we may have only had 5 minutes with the teacher, but we would hear things the other grades were taught and that would either reinforce what we already knew, or help us to learn ahead of our time.” She learned to study on her own, a quality that helped her all her life.
“We had sisters come to our school every summer to teach religious education, sometimes Franciscan sisters, and sometimes the School Sisters of Notre Dame,” says Rysavy, a SSND herself, “Our parents always spoke of these sisters like it was an ideal to live that kind of life.” When Rysavy’s older sister decided to join the community, she followed. Looking back on her life, she doesn’t know where she would be had she not made that decision.
Rysavy went to Mount Mary College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for a bachelor’s in math with a music minor. She went on to obtain a master’s degree in math over the course of 3 summers, through a grant from the national science foundation. “At the time, the computers were just those big mainframes and the way to communicate with them was punch cards,” says Rysavy, “I was curious and learned a bit of Fortran and that got me into programming and figuring out ways to do things right from the beginning.”
Rysavy went on to teach high school for 8 years, where she went on to develop a program for the school in Flexible Modular Scheduling. All teachers needed a way to make adjustments in classes and scheduling. After 90 hours of writing it out by hand, Rysavy decided, “hey, I think the computer could do that.” In the following months, all while teaching full time, Rysavy finished the program that allowed the school’s scheduling to go digital.
Before she knew it, Rysavy was called by the School Sisters of Notre Dame to go to Rome and work on finances there. “I knew no Italian, and I didn’t know bookkeeping either!” recalls Rysavy, “My theory is that after I had those few courses in Fortran, and my success with programming for the school, they looked at me and thought. ‘Well, here’s a person who can do anything’ and sent me over.”
Rysavy worked in Rome for the first time from 1974 to 1984. “When I got home, my advisor asked me what I was interested in and I said ‘the use of technology for teaching.’” This led her to obtain her doctorate from the University of Minnesota in education curriculum and instruction. She returned to Rome at a later date, before coming back to teach at Saint Cloud State University. She now enjoys teaching and advising students in her office, where classical music can always be heard.
(Music Copywrite-free from http://freemusicarchive.org/genre/Classical/)
Rysavy currently teaches 3 courses, CNA-267 in Python programming, a business course in Microsoft Excel, and CNA-397 in the history of various operating systems and some basic programming. One former student, Nick Ringsmuth said, “You can tell she really cares about her students, she puts in the time and helps people through programs.”
-Albert Rysavy (2018)