Sister Shawn Marie Maguire, the former Maryvale Preparatory School headmistress who championed the school’s growth, died of stroke complications Sept. 17 at Stella Maris Hospice in Timonium. She was 81 and a member of the Notre Dame de Namur Sisters.
“While Sr. Shawn’s contributions as a school leader are indeed significant, to say the least, it was perhaps her impact on people, especially her students and faculty, that is legendary,” the school’s president, Tracey H. Ford, said in a statement. “Alumnae share her daily connection to them when they were in school. They often share that she remembered birthdays, joyous times, times of deep sorrow, and, often, even the anniversaries of those which followed.”
Born Marie Teresa Maguire in Philadelphia and raised in Darby, she was the daughter of John C. Maguire, an insurance agent, and his wife, Marie Quinn. She attended West Catholic Girls’ High School and earned a degree at Trinity Washington University after entering her religious order and receiving the name Shawn Marie. She later received a master’s degree at Temple University.
She taught at Our Lady of Victory School on Wilkens Avenue and at Trinity Preparatory School in Ilchester. She came to Maryvale in 1978 as a graduate student intern as part of a second master’s degree program at what is now Loyola University Maryland.
In 1981, she became Maryvale’s ninth principal. She was later named the school’s headmistress and president.
“Her faith was rock solid and that inspired the rest of us who volunteer at the school. She loved the students and the students loved her,” said Herbert R. O’Conor III, a former Maryvale board chair. “She always had a soft smile that put you at ease. She listened closely and learned your willingness to help. There was a natural friendliness to her. Being around her students was an energizing experience for her."
When she retired in 2012, a Sun article said, “Sister Shawn Marie Maguire has held numerous titles in her nearly 35 years at Maryvale Preparatory School, but ask any student, teacher or parent and the most-used description is ‘beloved.’”
The article said she knew every student and her parents by name. “She leaves a legacy of growth in academics, athletics and community service. ... During her tenure, Maryvale has expanded from its imposing stone building, known as the Castle, into several new buildings, one the school named Maguire Hall after her, and sports fields.”
The article said that Sister Shawn Marie led a $12 million capital campaign that resulted in the Erinn McCarthy Humanities Hall, a three-story structure with an auditorium, classrooms, labs, music and computer rooms, and an art gallery.
“Our mission has always been to prepare young women for life,” Sister Shawn Marie said in 2012. “Our science programs have made a real difference. Women have all the academic capabilities needed to succeed in these fields, if you give them the education.”
The Sun’s article said she was modest about her achievements at the school.
“There were many who saw the need and believed in this small girls' Catholic school,” Sister Shawn Marie said. "Word got out that we are here providing a superior education. Our own people are our best ambassadors.”
“I was struck by her unique gift of connecting with people. She never forgot a name. She inquired about your friends and family and took a genuine interest in what she called her girls. She was personable. The students and faculty respected her. She garnered both affection and respect,” said Mary Ellen Gallagher Barthelme, the chair of the school’s board.
Friends recalled that she sent notes of encouragement to students, alumnae, their families and her colleagues.
A statement from the school described her: “She was unequivocally a ‘people person’ with a twinkle in her eye and a deep faith. Her lifelong vocation as a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur was at her core and she embodied all the best of the Order and her devotion to her faith.”
Marci Prosser Reihart, also a former Maryvale chair, said: “She practiced the core mission of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in dedicating her life to education. There is not a person who she met who did not recognize her care, love and attention.”
Patricia “P.J.” Mitchell, a former Maryvale board chair, added: “Sister Shawn was the soul of the school for many years. You would find her at the door no matter what the weather greeting each student each day. She gave her the individual attention to her students.”
Survivors include her two brothers, J. Patrick Maguire of Avondale, Pennsylvania, and Michael Shawn Maguire of Springfield, Pennsylvania; and nieces and nephews.
A life celebration will be held at Maryvale when COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted.