Sister Joseph Adele Edwards was a Mount St. Mary's College (the Mount) mainstay and made lasting impressions on the people she encountered. Edwards' career in education started soon after she received her English degree from Mount St. Mary's in 1958. She began working at the college in 1963 after completing a masters degree in English from USC.
As baccalaureate dean at the Mount, Edwards spent most of her time working with students on academic probation. She was a disciplinarian, or at least that's how she described herself, said Daniel Aucutt, associate director of Learning Assistance at the Mount.
"Sister Joseph Adele Edwards was just known to really be a softy," Aucutt told Patch. "She came off as sort of dry and … called herself the 'Mean Dean' … but the reality was quite different."
Edwards was loving and compassionate toward her students, but wouldn't settle for failure, said Bernadette Robert, assistant vice president of Student Affairs at the Mount.
She demanded self confidence, especially from young women who might have had troubled upbringings, Robert told Patch.
"Sister Joseph Adele was always there as a mentor, as a mother in some cases where some young women came from homes that didn't have mothers," Robert said.
Over several years, Edwards developed amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. In April 2011, she moved into the Holy Family Community, a retirement home for the Sisters of Saint Joseph adjacent to the Mount. Edwards continued her administrative duties as often as she could and continued tutoring students in writing until she passed away from complications related to her disease on Christmas morning, Dec. 25, 2011 at the age of 78.
It was just like her to have died on that day, said Sister Regina Claire Salazar. At Edwards' memorial service on Thursday, Salazar told Patch that the last song the sister had been heard singing was "Joy to the World."
The song was to be played at her funeral later that night, Salazar said.
"She lived a peaceful life, very prayerful and loved to read," Salazar said. "She looked meek, sweet, gentle, but she had an agenda and she helped you find your way, so she was very dedicated."
A close friend of Edwards' for more than 50 years, Sister Mary Williams was a lecturer and administrator at the college from 1963-2003. The two taught together at Bishop Montgomery High School in Torrence before sharing faculty positions at the Mount.
Edwards loved to read, loved to write and loved watching movies, Williams told Patch. She was a Shakespeare scholar and reveled in American drama.
"Sister Joseph Adele is one of the longest-term teachers at Mount St. Mary's College and has friends everywhere, both on the faculty but also primarily with alumni," Williams said. "People just loved her and so she had alumni coming to visit her and remained in contact all the way through."