Tessie O. Edwards

Ms. Tessie O. Edwards transforms lives. Such is the breadth of her outreach and strength of her leadership.

It may be that Ms. Edwards suggests reading a book or attending a lecture, joining a committee or a board, or making a financial contribution. She has also hosted many lunches, teas and dinners to introduce people of varied interests and backgrounds to each other. Whatever it is, Ms. Edwards makes any invitation difficult to turn down. That is because of who she is, a person of integrity, faith, generosity wisdom, and courage.

In attending to the community, she has served on the boards of the League of Women Voters, the YWCA, The Women’s Fund and All Our Kids. In 2005 she received the Nebraska Governor’s First Lady’s Outstanding Community Service Award. She has frequently been a featured speaker. In 2003 Ms. Edwards was on a forum on world power on the PBS “Lehrer Hour.”
Her commitment to education is equally impressive.

Ms. Edwards earned a Bachelor of Science degree in history and economics from Creighton University in 1949. She taught for 46 years, 23 of them at Creighton Preparatory. There Ms. Edwards designed the global history course long before multiculturalism was current. She enriched her teaching through her summer study abroad, including a stay at Oxford University, and affiliations in professional societies.  In 1964 she received the Pope Paul VI Pontifex Maximus Award for her commitment to Catholic education. When she retired, she received Prep’s Ancilla Domini Award. Fittingly, she also received a globe inscribed “Citizen of the World.”

For mentoring colleagues and future teachers, Ms. Edwards was elected to Omicron Delta Kappa, an honor society encouraging careers in education.

Seemingly every metro Catholic school has benefited from Ms. Edward’s expertise. Besides serving on the Omaha Archdiocesan Commission on Education, she has served on the boards of Marian High School and Duchesne Academy and was a member of Mercy Visitors. In 2000 the Notre Dame sisters gave her the Mother Qualberta Service Award for exemplifying courage and missionary zeal.

From 2002 to 2008 Ms. Edwards served on the Executive Committee of the National Board of Trustees for Boys Town. During this time, Boys Town expanded its program to 14 states and the District of Columbia. In 2008, Wegner Middle School’s auditorium was named for her and her sister Barba, also a former board member.

Ms. Edwards ‘s association with Creighton University continued after her graduation. She has served on Creighton University’s Alumni and Alumnae Advisory Board of the College of Arts and Sciences and was named an honorary member of Alpha Sigma Nu, the national Jesuit honor society. In 2005, Creighton University awarded her the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa. Ms. Edwards has been a frequent visitor to Creighton’s campus, whether for a meeting or for noon Mass. Much of what Ms. Edwards does is grounded in her deep spirituality, and she has served as a Board Member of the Cultural Crossroads Board, an international Catholic faith-sharing group.

In her retirement Ms. Edwards’ great enthusiasm has been for The Black Student Catholic Scholarship Fund. The Fund’s inception dates to an initiative of the National Black Catholic Pastoral Plan, to educate black youth in value-centered Catholic schools. In 1994, the Archdiocese of Omaha implemented this aspect of the Pastoral Plan by forming a board of directors under the leadership of Ms. Edwards and bringing The Black Student Catholic Scholarship Fund into being.  To date, 93 students have received scholarships. At present the scholarships of $3,500 per student amounts to about fifty per cent of tuition. This year’s recipients will be attending Roncalli, Gross, Marian, Mercy and Creighton Prep high schools. Ms. Edwards has said that her “vision [of The Black Student Catholic Scholarship Fund] has always been to help elevate [the recipients’] awareness of their own abilities, to help them see what they can contribute.”  Certainly Ms. Edwards’ goal for the Fund has been her own life goal, to use her abilities to contribute to society, and for that we offer our heartfelt gratitude.

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