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Sr. Joan O'Shea and Denise Ferguson '75 Appear on NPR
by Jessica Mackinnon
Sr. Joan O'Shea and Denise Ferguson '75
Dominican's own Sister Joan O’Shea and Denise Dixon Ferguson ‘75 appeared on Chicago Public Radio station WBEZ (91.5 FM) on Friday, October 5, as part of an ongoing series recording the stories of Americans from all backgrounds and beliefs. They were recorded discussing Denise’s experiences as a student and Sister Joan’s tenure as dean of students during the 1970s. 

The three-minute segment, edited down from a 48-minute conversation between Sr. Joan and Denise, who was honored with Dominican’s 2012 African/ African American Heritage Alumnae/i Award, aired during WBEZ’s "All Things Considered" program.

Among other memories, Ferguson shared her unique experience of having to be bailed out of jail by Sr. Joan after driving a campus vehicle to delivering food for Operation Breadbasket, a nonprofit working in Chicago at the time.

"And so the police pulls me over … and he says: 'May I see your license?' And I turn to him and I say: 'Oh, I don't have one,'" Ferguson recalls. "And here I am, having to look at you as you say to me: 'In all of my life, I have never had to come and get a student out of jail.' It was a funny time, but it was also a scary time for me because I thought I was gonna lose you," Ferguson tells Sr. Joan.

Unswayed, Sr. Joan replies, "Not a chance."

The segment also rehashes a revelation Sr. Joan says she experienced at Rosary College during the racially charged 70's.

"My own personal ‘Ah-ha! moment:’ Both the black students and the white students had all kinds of problems with each other. A white person came to my office one day and said: 'Oh, the black students are doing this or that or the other thing,'" Sr. Joan narrates. "And I looked at this person and I said: 'Oh, come on now, our students would have ....' And I stopped myself. I was about to say: 'Our students would have done the same thing.' And then I said: 'Wait a minute. All of these students are our students.'"

After graduating from Dominican, Ferguson went on to a long career in public service, working for Chicago Public Library, Village of Maywood, Cook County Public Guardian and Chicago Public Schools.  In 2011, she retired from her position as a director with the City of Chicago’s Commission on Human Relations where she led the Advisory Council on Women.

The project was facilitated by Tina Weinheimer, manager of university publications.

Click here to listen on wbez.org to the segment that aired. To listen to the full 48-minute discussion, click here to download the mp3​. To learn more about StoryCorps, visit their website, storycorps.org.
Contact: Jessica Mackinnon - (708) 524-6289 - jmack@dom.edu
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