It was not easy for Irish Roman Catholics to get ahead in Pittsburgh during the 1930s but education provided a path. As one of five Irish siblings, M. Jane Scully grew up first in Dormont and later in Squirrel Hill. From a young age, she was a student of politics and a voracious reader. Both interests served her well.
After joining the Religious Sisters of Mercy in 1940, the amiable, freckle-faced woman was a teacher, a librarian, a fund raiser and, finally, at age 47, president of Mount Mercy College.
But before rising to that lofty position, she was a student. After graduating from Mount Mercy, Sister Scully was awarded a graduate fellowship in the School of Social Service at the University of Pittsburgh. She also earned a degree in library science at Carnegie Library School and a master of arts in library science at the University of Michigan.
When she was elected president of Mount Mercy College in 1966, her religious name was M. Camillus Scully and she wore a full habit. She also was the first alumna of the school, now Carlow University, to be named its chief executive officer. Her successful tenure lasted 16 years.
In several ways, she was a pioneer. In the 1970s, she became the first woman to serve on Gulf Oil’s board of directors. She also was one of the first women admitted to membership in the Duquesne Club, once a male-only bastion of corporate power.
That was quite a climb up the ladder after a twelve-year stint as Mount Mercy’s librarian, a job she held from 1950 to 1962. In 1965, she was named director of development and began planning the school’s expansion. She also was an associate professor on the English faculty.
After the reforms of Vatican II, many nuns returned to their baptismal names and stopped wearing full habits. Sister Camillus followed that trend in 1968, returning to her baptismal name of M. Jane Scully.
Sister Jane also advocated for women to have athletic opportunities on college campuses.
“I think it’s very important that young women have the opportunity to develop their fullest potential. And if scholarships contribute to that opportunity, then scholarships should be made available,” she told the Post-Gazette in 1976. She even took time to show off her batting expertise for a reporter by swatting a ball made of scrap paper.
When she retired in 1982, she was honored during a dinner at the Duquesne Club. A grateful Sister Scully remarked that she had been able to serve God, women, justice and peace.
And we just learned today that Sister Jane is still around. She is in her 90s and relies on a wheelchair and an aide to get around, but she still attends the occasional event on the Carlow campus.