Interview with Sister Odette Haddad


By: Sheronne Walker-Burke (Class of '76)
Posted: Sepetmber 8, 2013


The Mount Alvernia Alumni Association of Central Florida is pleased to recognize Sr. Odette Haddad as Professor Emeritus. Alumni of the 1970's remember her embracing us regardless of our religious affiliation or our family situation. Now that we have children, and grandchildren of our own, we are ever grateful for the values she instilled in us. Although we know the positive impact she made on so many lives, some of us do not know much of her personal story, so Sheronne Walker-Burke (Class of '76) interviewed her to gain some insight into her life of service.

Q: Sister, will you share with us a little about your background?
A: Well, I was born in Linstead, Jamaica, the youngest of 6 children. I attended Immaculate Conception Prep and High Schools as a boarder before entering the convent. This year I celebrated my 50th year as a Franciscan Sister of Allegany.[See photos.. ]

Q: What brought you to Mt. Alvernia and how long were you on staff?
A: After teaching at Immaculate for 3 years, I was recruited to start the business school at Mt. Alvernia where I spent 7 years teaching business and religion from 1970 to 1977.

Q. I know you maintained a special relationship with the boarders, what are some of your fondest memories?
A: Since I was a boarder at Immaculate, I could easily identify with the boarders. After school hours I worked very
closely with them like an assistant housemother so relationships came natural and easy. It was important to me that
the students' needs were met, that they felt loved and respected, that they created a circle of friends, and that they
felt at home away from home. The boarders came to know me as a caring and approachable caregiver who always
offered a shoulder to cry on. I enjoyed playing tennis with them after school, chaperoning dances, and watching
relationships develop between the MAHS boarders and Cornwall College boarders - one such relationship involved our illustrious Alumni president, Dawn Chin and her now husband, CC Jones.

Q: So tell us a little about what you have done since leaving Mt. Alvernia, and where you direct your passion today.
A: Where do I start? Well, until very recently I lived in Tampa where I worked as a public relations coordinator at our retreat center, I also developed a personal touch program at St. Anthony's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida. Having obtained a Master of Social Work degree at Barry University, I worked with various mental health agencies and hospitals. Last summer I was elected to be one of the leaders of my religious congregation and I am now living in Allegany, NY where my simple passion is to communicate love and acceptance through my smile.

Q. You have inspired so many with your service, but from whom do you draw your own inspiration?
A. My inspiration comes from Martin Luther King, his legacy reminds us to always treat others with dignity and respect.

Q. Sister, we have enjoyed your participation in the Central Florida Alumni chapter. Why don't you
share a little bit of how you became involved?
A. Three years ago, Dawn Chin-Jones called me to say she had a dream, a vision, and she needed my
support. She wanted to establish an alumni chapter to give back to her alma mater. You know it's
hard to say no to Dawn J. I told her she could count on my support. In no time, she had a group of
former students willing to join her efforts. This group became the board and they have been meeting
regularly since then to organize health fairs for the current student body, and fundraising galas to for
various projects.

Q. What does it mean to be recognized as Professor Emeritus?
A. I find it very humbling and I want to live up to the honor.

Q. In closing, do you have any words of wisdom for the current Mount Alvernia student body, and
the alumni?
A. Most definitely! To the current student body I would say take advantage of learning opportunities, set
goals, be responsible, speak kindly of others, choose friends who bring out the best in you, learn how to
say no, be grateful, respectful, and kind, develop a healthy value system. I encourage alumni to recognize their goodness, be confident in their gifts, and to take time for themselves.

Thank you for sharing a little of your story with us, we know you will continue to be an ambassador of goodwill well beyond the borders of Mt. Alvernia. We look forward to seeing you at Homecoming 2014.


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