Life Lessons From Loyola’s Sister Jean On Her 100th Birthday | WBEZ
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Life Lessons From Loyola’s Sister Jean On Her 100th Birthday

Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt is turning 100 years old on Wednesday, but she says she’s not the first person she knows who has lived an entire century.

“It’s not unusual in my community,” the Loyola University Chicago nun said, referring to other nuns in the Blessed Virgin Mary order where she has belonged for more than eight decades. “It’s just lovely to know this is as long as God wants you to live.”

“Sister Jean,” as she is known, grew to international fame two years ago when Loyola’s basketball team made an historic March Madness run, ultimately losing to Michigan in the Final Four. She’s an integral part of the team as their chaplain, praying with them before games and offering advice afterwards.

She credits her longevity at least in part to good genes; her father and his seven siblings all lived to be at least 95 years old.

Here is some advice Sister Jean often tells students. Frankly, it’s good advice for everyone.

Go to sleep at the same time every night

Sister Jean says it’s important to get enough sleep every night, but she thinks it’s especially important to maintain a regular sleep schedule where you go to bed at the same time every night. For her, that’s 10:30 p.m.

Time management is the key to success

One hundred years is a lot of time on Earth, and Sister Jean says having a solid plan of action for each day helps you stay organized and get things accomplished.

“The people in athletics and sports are perhaps the best time managers in the school because they’re in the public eye, they have the practice hours every day … study while they’re away,” Sister Jean said. “I try to instill that in other students.”

If you’re homesick, seek out a dog

Sister Jean lives in a dorm with students at Loyola and is often visited by freshmen who want advice as they navigate their first year of school. Often, they’re homesick for their siblings or even their dogs. She often tells them to see Loyola’s therapy dog in the wellness center to help them adjust and serve as a temporary furry substitute. Spending time with a dog doesn’t seem like bad advice for anyone having a tough day.

Focus on bringing joy to other people

Sister Jean says working with college-aged students has kept her spirit youthful, but she worries that today’s young people are living in a world especially filled with sorrow and violence.

“I think that has a great effect on their lives,” she said. “I think we need to be joyful people, bring happiness to other people.”

Don’t be afraid to take criticism … and accept praise

After each basketball game, Sister Jean sends an email to the team regardless of if they win or lose. At the end, she adds an individualized P.S. to each member about their performance, praising them for a good job or pointing out something they could improve upon. She says the players are open to listening and thinks it’s important to always reflect on your past performance.

“We work on the things in which we are weak and study the things in which we’re strong,” she said.

“30 is just the prime”

Sister Jean says as people get older, they start to become proud of how old they are. But between 21 and 65 years old, most people don’t want to talk about their age. Sister Jean rejects that idea.

“You’re as old as you feel,” she said. She thinks too many people look at being 30 as being old.

“30 is just the prime,” she said. “You have a long way to go.”

Six days after this reporter enjoyed her 30th birthday, that was the best advice to hear.

Kate McGee covers education for WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter at @WBEZeducation and @McGeeReports.

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