Benedictine Sister Emmanuel (Audrey) Renner, professor emerita of history and president emerita of the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, died Jan. 22 at the age of 93.
The Mass of Christian Burial will be at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 28, in Sacred Heart Chapel at St. Benedict’s Monastery in St. Joseph. Burial of the cremated remains will be in the monastery cemetery. Visitation will be the Sacred Heart Chapel Gathering Place beginning at 9 a.m. Tuesday. A prayer service will also be held at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 27, in the chapel.
Sister Emmanuel was the 10th president of the college, serving from 1979 through 1986. She was a renowned scholar, educator, historian and skilled administrator.
After graduating from CSB in 1949 with a history major, Sister Emmanuel went on to receive a master’s degree in medieval history from the University of Minnesota and a doctorate. in modern European history and political science from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. She also studied at several other schools, including Fordham University, Tunghai University in Taiwan, Hamline, Pomona College, and Sophia University in Tokyo.
Sister Emmanuel first taught at St. Ben’s in 1955, eventually becoming chair of the history department. “She was a demanding teacher who took a sincere interest in her students,” said Joan Riebel (’64), a former student, in a news release from the school announcing Sister Emmanuel’s death. “We called her our ‘prim and proper prof,’ and I can still hear her laugh when we did. She’d throw her head back and laugh out loud. All of us with a history emphasis had a special connection to her. And all of us respected her deep regard for teaching.”
Additionally, Sister Emmanuel was the chair of the integrated studies department and dean of the continuing education division of the college.
As president, she played a critical role in the development of the CSB/SJU joint core curriculum. She presided over the college’s first capital fund drive, raising $5.2 million for the construction of the Clemens Library. The construction and opening of Claire Lynch Hall also came about during her tenure.
After her seven-year term, Sister Emmanuel resigned her position on June 30, 1986. After a one-year sabbatical, she returned to the history department to continue teaching. She retired in 1998 as professor emerita and later volunteered her services for 10 years in the CSB archives.
In June 2005, the College of St. Benedict completed and blessed the Renner House, named in her honor. Renner House is the residence for CSB President Mary Dana Hinton and her family.
“Sister Emmanuel Renner was a strong leader and an active and engaged scholar,” Hinton said. “She embodied the spirit of our founding order and modeled the very best ways that Catholic and Benedictine values enhance an educational environment. I am fortunate to have shared a few precious moments with Sister Emmanuel over the past six years. Her grace, thoughtfulness and generosity of spirit will be missed by all who knew her, worked with her and learned from her.”