Sister Emmanuel Renner

Sister Emmanuel Renner Sister Emmanuel Renner photo 2 Sister Emmanuel Renner photo 3

S. Emmanuel Renner; left:  undated,  center: undated, right: ca. 1999 (click thumbnails for larger images)


Sister Emmanuel Renner, OSB was the tenth president of the College of Saint Benedict and the first Benedictine president since the retirement of S. Mary Grell, OSB in 1968. S. Emmanuel served a seven year term that spanned from 1979 to 1986. She oversaw the continued growth of the student body despite a statewide decrease of high school graduates, she planned the cooperative core curriculum for CSB and SJU, and she worked toward adding necessary facilities to the campus.

S. Emmanuel was born and raised in Walker, Minnesota. She attended St. James Academy in Grand Forks and then moved to Saint Joseph, to attend college at CSB. After graduating from CSB in 1949 with a history major, S. Emmanuel went on to receive her Master’s in Medieval History from the University of Minnesota and her Ph. D in Modern European History and Political Science from Catholic University. She also studied at several other schools, including: Fordham University, Tunghai University in Taiwan, Hamline, Pomona College, and Sophia University in Tokyo.

S. Emmanuel taught at Memorial High School in Pierz, MN for a time before moving back to teach at CSB. She taught history eventually becoming the chair of the History Department. S. Emmanuel was also the chair of the Integrated Studies Department and the Dean of the Continuing Education Division of the College. She was also a member of Minnesota Women in Higher Education.

As S. Emmanuel was beginning her presidency in July 1979, Minnesota was experiencing a decreasing number of high school graduates, affecting colleges all over the state. Anticipating this, greater efforts went into recruiting and retention, such that CSB was unaffected by the occurrence and actually saw a growth in enrollment of fulltime students, the numbers increasing from 1,760 to 1, 960. To serve a growing student body, a gym, library, and another dormitory were added to the campus. Evin Hall was built in 1981 by St. Benedict’s Monastery and leased to the College to temporarily house some of the growing number of students. To exercise the bodies of students as well as their brains, Claire Lynch Gym was built to serve the Blazer athletic teams. To provide better resources and materials as well as study space, S. Emmanuel led the first capital fund drive that raised $5.2 million for the construction of a new library; Clemens Library was built in 1986 as S. Emmanuel finished her term. S. Emmanuel oversaw and planned the CSB/SJU joint core curriculum so that CSB/SJU students got the best and well-rounded liberal arts education during their undergraduate studies.

After an impressive seven-year term, S. Emmanuel resigned her position on June 30, 1986. She helped lead a Greco-Roman study abroad program in the fall of 1986 during her one-year sabbatical, and then returned to the History Department to continue teaching. S. Emmanuel retired in 1998 as Professor Emerita in the History Department, and later volunteered her services for ten years in the CSB Archives. The president’s home, the Renner House, was named in her honor.

Sister Emmanuel passed away on January 22, 2020.

For more on Sister Emmanuel:

Special thanks to Megan Girgen ’13 and Meghan Flannery ’15 for drafting this text.