Sister Remberta Westkaemper
S. Remberta Westkaemper; left: undated, right: April 1975, taken at age 85. (click thumbnails for larger images)
Sister Remberta Westkaemper, OSB was the fifth president at the College of Saint Benedict. She served from 1957 to 1961. Until S. Remberta's term, the presidency of the college had been a joint position: The Prioress of the Monastery was also the President of the College. S. Remberta was the first non-prioress to be president of CSB, and thus also the first fulltime president of the College.
S. Remberta was born on January 2, 1890, in Spring Hill, Minnesota. She entered into Saint Benedict's Convent on July 10, 1907. S. Remberta professed first vows on July 11, 1908, made final vows on July 11, 1911, and celebrated her Golden Jubilee on August 15, 1958. She graduated from the College of Saint Benedict in 1919 with a Bachelor's degree in botany. S.Remberta pursued graduate school at the University of Minnesota, where she earned a Master's of Science in 1922 and her Doctorate in 1929.
S. Remberta had a deep love for education. In 1917, while still receiving her own education, she taught biology at the College and at Saint Benedict's Academy. She later went on to teach grade school for nine years in Wadena and Swan River, Minnesota. After serving a four year term as the president of CSB, she went back to teaching for another twelve years. From 1961 to 1973, S. Remberta taught biology and physiology at the College and for two of those years, she taught anatomy and physiology at the Saint Cloud Hospital School of Nursing. S. Remberta retired in 1973.
In an opening address for the 1960 academic year, S. Remberta explained what it meant to be a member of a college community:
"What does it mean to be a member of a college community? It means that you are committed to the search for knowledge for its own sake. This is your first duty as a student. I could enumerate many traits of a student, but I will mention only two: desire for knowledge and the will to discipline yourself. Unless you are motivated by a true desire for knowledge you may spend many years in college but you will never be a student. No matter how good the teachers, or how adequate the library, nor how fine the convocation programs, you will not learn. No teacher can learn for her students, for learning goes on within the person of the learner."
S. Remberta holds many honors. In 1972, she was given the Outstanding Teacher for America award. She was also given the Award for Distinguished Service to Science. S. Remberta was a Sigma Xi Honor Society member, and a member of the Minnesota Academy of Science. She was an elected member of the science division of the American Benedictine Academy. S. Remberta was a "Who's Who among Women" and an "American Catholic Who's Who" entry.
Sister Remberta collected and classified more than 600 specimens of plants from Stearns County, which can be seen in herbariums at the College of Saint Benedict/Saint John's University and at the University of Minnesota.
S. Remberta died on March 13, 1988 at the age of 98 and in the eighty-first year of her religious profession.
Below are more resources about Sister Remberta:
- Obituary, as published in Saint Benedict's Today, 1988.
- 'A Concrete Commitment to Science', by Patty Mattern, Saint Benedict's Today, Spring 1988, pg. 2-5.
- 'S. Remberta scholarship set', Saint Benedict's Today, Winter 1984, pg. 6.
- S. Remberta Westkaemper's autobiography, September 1979
- 'My House is a House of Prayer', an article by S. Remberta sharing her impressions of Europe, The Benet, February 1962, pg. 3-4.
- Article about her leave of absence to do research at the University of Minnesota, Handshake, February 1936, pg. 3.
Special thanks to Megan Girgen '13 and Meghan Flannery '15 for drafting this text.