Sheila Powers posthumously receives Teaching Excellence Award
May 12, 2010
Lacey, Washington — Last Friday, May 7, at the
McChord Field Combined Graduation Ceremony, Saint Martin’s University’s
JBLM staff posthumously recognized Ms. Mary Sheila Powers as their
recipient of this year’s Teaching Excellence Award. Ms. Powers, 61,
passed away earlier this year in March due to breast cancer. Her
husband, Dan Worthen, and her family accepted the award during the
graduation ceremony, which was held at Clover Park Technical College.
At the time of her death, Ms. Powers—who was better
known as Sheila—was teaching at three different schools: Tacoma
Community College, Seattle University, and Saint Martin’s University. At
Saint Martin’s, she taught Religious Studies courses along with Virtues
and the Art of Parenting and Psychology of Religion classes for almost
“She was fiery and confident, yet gentle and
compassionate,” says Christopher Wilkinson, a Saint Martin’s student.
“She was a wonder to all of her students who were willing to open their
minds and hearts to her guidance and suggestions.”
Born in Utica, New York, Ms. Powers was the oldest
of seven children. She moved to Detroit when she was 15 and was a member
of the Adrian Dominican Sisters for over 20 years. She moved to Tacoma
after marrying her husband, Dan Worthen, in 1989.
Ms. Powers graduated with a bachelor of arts in
literature and history from Siena Heights College in Michigan and a
master of theology and a master of divinity from the Jesuit School of
Theology at Berkeley. She held teaching certifications in Washington,
Maryland, and Michigan, and a Clinical Pastoral Counseling Certification
for her work in hospital chaplaincy at Good Samaritan Hospital in
Phoenix, Arizona. She taught in elementary grades two and four and
pioneered the Family Literacy Program at Madison School, a part of
Tacoma Community College.
Ms. Powers was a caring and gifted educator who held
students to a higher level of compassionate academic thought. She was
known for her sensitivity to the individuality of each student’s
perspective on life, religion, and the power of love and she left
lasting impressions on her student’s lives. As a final tribute to her
love of teaching and for her students, upon learning she had but a few
days to live, her first response was to ensure her students’ grades were
“Her determination and compassion toward others will
never be equaled,” says Kim Van Vleet, director of Saint Martin’s
McChord Distance Learning Center.
Saint Martin’s University is an independent
four-year, Catholic, coeducational university located on a 380-acre
wooded campus in Lacey, Washington. Established in 1895 by the Catholic
Order of Saint Benedict, the University is one of 18 Benedictine
colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, and the only
one west of the Rocky Mountains. Saint Martin’s University prepares
students for successful lives through its 21 majors and six graduate
programs spanning the liberal arts, business, education and engineering.
Saint Martin’s welcomes 1,250 students from many ethnic and religious
backgrounds to its main campus, and 650 more to its extension campuses
located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Everett College, Centralia College,
and Tacoma Community College.
Genevieve Canceko Chan
Director of communications & marketing
Saint Martin’s University