University of Texas
Sister John Clement "JC" Hungerman, IHM
(Edna Rose Hungerman)
July 8, 1934–November 7, 1983

 

 

Sister John Clement “JC” Hungerman
Detroit, MI, 1970


Edna Rose Hungerman was born July 8, 1934, in Detroit, Mi, to Clement Henry (1902–1964) and Edna Marie Makary (1902–1998) Hungerman. Clement, born in Pennsylvania, graduated from Carnegie Tech (later Carnegie-Mellon) with a degree in industrial engineering. He became General Forman of the GMC’s Cadillac Motor Division’s foundry in Detroit. Clement and Edna were married July 9, 1924. Their wedding picture is at right.

Edna Rose, named for her mother, was one of seven children, Marie, Ann, Clement (1929–1996), Paul (1931–2006), Ronald (1932–2000) and John. Amazingly, all three daughters earned PhDs. Her sister Ann became a professor of education at the University of Michigan, retiring in 1987. Her other sister, Sister Marie Gabriel, taught philosophy at Marygrove and Sienna Heights colleges, before teaching at Nazareth College. in Kalamazoo, MI. Her brothers also were very successful. Clement, Ron and John earned engineering degrees from General Motors Institute of Technology in Flint, MI. Two of them went on to get MBA degrees. The fourth brother, Paul, got a dental degree from the University of Detroit and then advanced training in orthodontics at Tufts University while in the air force. He rose to full colonel and headed dental clinic sat air forces bases in the United States, England, and Germany.

Edna Rose attended high school in Detroit and entered the Immaculate Heart of Mary convent in Monroe, MI on August 20, 1952, becoming Sister John Clement Hungerman. She was referred to by her family and friends as “JC.” She graduated from Marygrove College in 1957 with a degree in mathematics. Following graduation she taught school.

When her IHM superiors, realizing the advantage of a warmer climate to alleviate the pain of her rheumatoid arthritis, they encouraged her to find academic study in such a place. JC chose the University of Texas. Sister John Clement Hungerman earned a PhD in 1972. Her supervisor and close friend was Professor W. W. Robertson. The title of her thesis was, The Temperature and Pressure Dependence of the Lifetime of Singlet Metastable Helium.

She returned to Marygrove College to teach physics and, in 1978, became an academic dean. A severe case of rheumatoid arthritis forced her to resign as dean in 1982, however, she continued to teach. The arthritis required her to have some of her joints replaced, earning her the title of “The Bionic Nun.”

“She was in constant pain, but you’d never hear about it from her. It was amazing that she could continue working,” said Sister Amata Miller, a friend of Hungerman’s. “Besides her physics classes, she regularly took on an extra course in basic math for disadvantaged student. She had an extraordinary gift for helping students see what they hadn’t been able to see before. They still tell stories about the time she was teaching long division in one of those classes. One of the students suddenly caught on and yelled out, ‘Where were you in fifth grade, when I really needed you.’”

Still, “physics was the love of her life.” reported Sister Miller. “She had a very scientific mind. She did pioneering work in biomechanics, and she used her knowledge of biomechanics to design new orthopedic assistance programs in the 1970s.”

Her sister, Marie Gabriel, reported, “JC taught physics through dance, home economics utensils, and science fiction stories. Her creativity was expressed in music (she played the violin) and in sewing. She was inspired by Einstein's quote about Imagination being more important than knowledge.”

As a member of her congregation’s corporate investment committee, Hungerman spoke at stockholders’ meetings of Detroit Edison, using her knowledge of physics to argue for a resolution opposing the company’s attempt to build a nuclear power plant.

 

From University of Michigan School of Music, 1983 - Concert program:

 

Some of the material in the bio came from a National Catholic Reporter, Nov. 18, 1983, article written by Gene Palumbo.

Help with this article came from Ann Hungerman (at left), sister of John Clement Hungerman, Professor of Education at the University of Michigan.

 

 

 

 


 

Transcribed from Detroit Free Press by Lois Mallory

Nun Taught Many Lessons

BY PATRICIA CHARGOT
PRESS STAFF WRITER

"Above all the rest, I am a teacher first"

Sister John Clement Hungerman, PhD
August 7, 1934–Nov. 7, 1983

"May she rest in peace."

Someone neatly wrote those words early Tuesday on a chalkboard outside Sister John Hungerman's office at Marygrove College on Detroit's northwest side.

Some twelve hours earlier, about 8:30 p.m. Monday, the 49-year-old nun had been shot to death in front of the home she shared with two other nuns less than a half-block from campus. The nun's purse was found two blocks away. Detroit Police Sgt. Roy Awe said investigators had several leads but no suspects in custody.

The words on the chalkboard summated Sister John Clement's dedication to her profession. But they hardly described "J.C." as she was known—a woman with "a completely scientific mind" who could teach theoretical physics as well as remedial math and who was a "science-fiction freak." She had a PhD in atomic physics from the University of Texas, and did postgraduate work at the University of Louisville and St. Louis University. At Marygrove, she taught physics and basic math and "was ever so caring, very, very patient with remedial students," said Sister Andrea Seavitt, head of the mathematics department.

Sister Andrea Lee, 35, who lived with Sister John Clement, recalled a story about "a big burly kid" struggling with long division, who stood up in class and said: "Where were you when I needed you in the fifth grade?"

In the 1970s, when the college started a dance program, Sister John Clement developed a class in bio-mechanics, teaching dance majors about the physics principles that governed their bodies. She also taught bio-mechanics to orthopedic residents at Mt. Carmel Mercy Hospital.

MARYGROVE, on W. McNichols, was founded in 1910 by the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM). The school is governed by an independent board of trustees and offers a liberal arts curriculum.

"Sister John Clement had to overcome constant pain from severe rheumatoid arthritis," her friends said."She was a perfect example of someone who learned to put mind over matter," said Sister Amata Miller, chief financial officer for the IHM order."She lived with constant pain, but you'd never know it. She'd never tell us," said Sister Elizabeth Mary Larson, 55, a sociology professor who lived with Sister John Clement. "She should have been crippled up but she wasn't."

The longtime physics teacher had an artificial hip, as well as artificial knuckles and toe joints, but found ways to compensate for her disabilities, her friends said. Sister Elizabeth recalled that after surgery on her knuckles, Sister John Clement's hand was wrapped in a protective aluminum cage, "but she still used that hand to cut the meat with an electric knife," she said. "I couldn't do it with both hands. She'd say 'I'll do it, Elizabeth.' "Sister Elizabeth and Sister Andrea stood in the walkway of their home in the 16500 block of Northlawn on Tuesday morning, talking to reporters about their friend, a scholar who would sit in her rocking chair and for five-hour stretches, who, before her fingers became crippled, loved to play the violin. Behind them, on the walkway to the front steps, was a large red stain of Sister John Clement's blood.

Turning to look at the stain, Sister Elizabeth described the brutal image that she said "nothing will ever erase"; Sister John Clement, lying on her back, stretched out, "like someone had knocked her right over." "She was wearing her "dress-up duds," Sister Andrea said_a brown suit, brown and orange paisley blouse, and sandals—because a friend and first-year instructor in the education department, Virginia Jones, had asked Sister John Clement to monitor her class and evaluate her teaching. Sister John Clement, the college's academic dean from 1978-82, was widely admired by the faculty for her patience and creativity as a teacher.

Sister Elizabeth said she and Sister Amata were in the house when the shooting occurred, but never heard the shots. Sister Elizabeth had just cooked fresh noodles and heated leftover roast beef for Sister John Clement's dinner. It was the third time she had cooked dinner that night--once for Sister Andrea, once for herself and Sister Amata, and once for Sister John Clement. "I said to Amata, who was finishing the dishes, 'I'll take the garbage out,' and I went out the side door," Sister Elizabeth said. "Then I saw J.C. Her face was all swollen. I thought, 'My God, she's been mugged.' I put my head down to listen for a heartbeat, but I pretty much figured she was dead." "I ran screaming into the house."

The neighborhood where the nuns live, built in the 1930s, has large brick homes, many covered with ivy. "We felt very safe here," said Sister Andrea. "There's a strong block club, and people take care of each other. Even when we took walks, people would say hello. They all knew we were sisters."

Monday night, after news reports of the slaying were broadcast, IHM nuns came from Monroe, Sterling Heights, St. Clair Shores and Detroit to the house on Northlawn to console each other and pray for Sister John Clement. On a wall near her office desk at the college, Sister John Clement had posted this quote from Albert Einstein: "We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive."

Classes at Marygrove will be canceled after 4 p.m., Wednesday and all day Thursday in memory of Sister John Clement, whose body will lie in state in the school's chapel from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. ,Wednesday. A scripture service will be held there at 7 p.m. The funeral mass—the Resurrection Liturgy—will be at 7 p.m., Thursday in the IHM Motherhouse Chapel in Monroe. Burial will be in St. Mary's Cemetery, Monroe.

Survivors include Sister John Clement's mother, Mrs. Edna Hungerman; two sister, Sister Marie Gabriel, IHM professor of philosophy at Nazareth College in Kalamazoo, and Ann, professor of education at the University of Michigan; four brothers, Clement, Paul, Ronald and John; 17 nieces and nephews, and four grandnieces and grandnephews.

The family suggests memorial contributions to the Arthritis Foundation, 1314 Spring St. NW, Atlanta Ga., 30309.
The college is establishing the J. C. Hungerman Memorial Scholarship Fund in her memory. Donations may be sent to Marygrove College, 8425 W. McNichols, Detroit 48221.

Free Press Staff writer, Jeanne May, contributed to this report.

 

Sister John Clement Hungerman Photo Album

Sister John Clement Hungerman, high school photo.
Sister John Clement "JC" Hungerman, IHM
Sister John Clement "JC" Hungerman, IHM

Sister John Clement "JC" Hungerman, IHM
Bluebells

Sister John Clement "JC" Hungerman, IHM