The College of Mount Saint Vincent is mourning the loss of longtime journalism professor and communications department chair Sister Patricia McGowan, who died April 19 from complications related to COVID-19. She was 80.
Education was important to McGowan, not just as an instructor, but as a student herself. She graduated from The Mount, earned two master’s degrees — one in education from Hunter College, and the other in journalism from New York University — and a higher education doctorate from Columbia University’s Teachers College.
Sister Pat, as she was called by her peers, was “one in a million,” according to a memoriam published by Sisters of Charity of New York, which she joined on Sept. 8, 1956, when she was just 17 years old.
McGowan first started teaching elementary school at a number of schools in Manhattan and the Bronx just a few years later, in 1959.
After 22 years at that level, McGowan decided it was time to go to college, beginning in 1981 what would become a 38-year tenure at one of her alma maters, The Mount.
Although she retired in 2019, she remained active, even convincing the recently graduated Christina Rasmussen to gain valuable journalism experience in the newsroom of The Riverdale Press.
McGowan was known for being a tough educator, but also an understanding one. She worked hard to help build career paths for communications students not just at The Mount, but also with nearby Manhattan College.
More often found in street clothes than her habit, McGowan was known for her clever comebacks, according to a profile written after her death by New York Times writer Andrea Salcedo.
Once while strolling through Battery Park, a police officer yelled at her for jaywalking. Without hesitation, she fired back, “Don’t you have anything better to do than to yell at a nun?”
McGowan died at St. John’s Riverdale Hospital in Yonkers, but it was a different hospital just three miles south on Broadway — Saint Joseph’s Medical Center — where McGowan could be found volunteering at the information desk, according to Sisters of Charity. She also spent time at a safe house for women rescued from human trafficking rings.
McGowan is survived by a sister, as well as a number of nieces and nephews.