St. Kate's mourns Joan Kain, CSJ, ’55, former biology professor and study skills expert

Sr. Joan Kain, CSJ, '55

Historian, professor, artist and mentor are just a few ways those who knew her best describe Joan Kain, CSJ, ’55, who died peacefully, surrounded by friends and family, on Saturday evening, November 18, 2017.

Sister Joan was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, on February 11, 1927, to parents of Irish and Norwegian descent, with roots in Iowa and the Minnesota prairies. A chief source of her values came with her education. She earned a Bachelor’s of Arts in elementary education and history at St. Kate’s, and holds master's degrees from Marquette University, the University of Northern Arizona, the University of Minnesota and Macalester College.

Equal to her passion for an education — that was primarily focused in history and geography — was her deep faith and desire for living the values of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her teaching career led her to serve parishes and schools in the inner city, suburban and rural areas of Minnesota and North Dakota. Joan served 17 years as a professor of biology at St. Catherine University, and later as a volunteer in the O’Neill Center for Academic Development, where she loved sharing education with women.

"I was privileged to work alongside Sister Joan for many years as she shared her love of knowledge and her wealth of study skills with a wide cross-section of students," says Thelma Obah, O'Neill director. "She was the O'Neill Center's study skills expert par excellence and promoted reading comprehension skills at all levels at a time when such talk was not fashionable... Sister Joan will be sorely missed by her colleagues and friends everywhere."

A great interest for Sister Joan was her research of historic stone buildings in the upper Midwest, England, Scotland and Wales. This led to the popular 1978 classroom publication of Rocky Roots, a guide to ornamental and dimension stone in St. Paul’s downtown architecture, as well as several articles for Architecture Minnesota. In 2006, Sister Joan was a consultant on the Public Art St. Paul Geology Symposium, "Minnesota Rocks," which brought world-famous sculptors to create works of art in the Twin Cities.

Earlier this year, she added an online publication under her belt: Fitzgerald's Neighborhood: A New Look at the Brownstones and Mansions of the Historic Hill District. (Read about that achievement in "90 Years Strong Joan Kain, CSJ, ’55 Publishes New Work.")

Joan is preceded in death by her father, Richard Kain; her mother, Inez Kain; and her sister (aunt), Elaine Kain Cooper. She is survived by two sisters, Inez Burns and Margaret (Peggy) Swifka. Nieces and nephews include Clark (Bill) Cooper, David Cooper (Kate), Dick Cooper (Patty), Carol Johnson (Doug), Kristi Waite (Larry), Wendy Nemitz '98, Susan Nemitz, Richard Burns, Nancy Burns Pavlock (Leon), Joe Burns (Vivian) and many grand and great-grand nieces and nephews.

Services will take place Wednesday, November 29.

10 a.m. welcome prayer and visitation in the atrium; 11 a.m. Mass of Christian Burial in the Chapel of Our Lady of the Presentation. A luncheon will follow the liturgy. 1 p.m. leave for service at Resurrection Cemetery.