Carolyn Farrell, BVM (Lester) was presented with the Distinguished Alumni Award at the Scholastic Achievement Ceremony April 19 at Dowling Catholic HS, West Des Moines, Iowa.
Carolyn is a graduate of St. Joseph Academy, established by the Sisters of Charity, BVM in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1884. Dowling HS for boys was founded in 1918 in Des Moines. By 1970, the BVM sisters agreed to share in the development of a new co-educational high school in West Des Moines, and Dowling Catholic HS/St. Joseph Educational Center opened in the fall of 1972.
Carolyn notes that her fondest memory of St. Joseph Academy was working on the school newspaper: “It was learning in action how a group functioned together to achieve a common goal with Sister Donatus as our guiding light. I think that was my unconscious realization of leadership’s value through facilitation.”
After teaching elementary and junior high school and serving as principal, Carolyn ministered in a variety of administrative positions. Within the BVM congregation she served as the first coordinator of the Women’s Office and as regional representative. She was director, Continuing Education, Clarke University, Dubuque, Iowa; interim president, Mundelein College, Chicago; associate vice president, Loyola University Chicago; and director, Gannon Center for Women and Leadership, Chicago.
The first woman to be elected to the Dubuque City Council, Carolyn was also the first “nun” to serve as mayor of Dubuque. She was a member of numerous boards and committees related to the BVM congregation, her ministries, and her civic involvement. She last served as director of the Roberta Kuhn Center, Mount Carmel, Dubuque, where she was instrumental in fostering enrichment activities for older adults in the area communities. She continues to serve on Clarke University’s Board of Trustees.
As she addressed students who received academic awards at the ceremony, Carolyn stressed the importance of education, one of the BVM core values. “The BVMs taught us by word and example that as young women we could be all that we could be,” she shares. “Be grateful for the opportunity your education offered you as you continue your life journey.”