Champions of health care, education
Sister Maureen Van der Zee
Friends and co-workers knew her for compassionate patient care and spirit of giving. On a broader view, Sister Maureen Van der Zee helped lay the foundation of Lubbock as a medical center.
She entered the Congregation of St. Joseph of Orange in 1941, studied nursing and worked in obstetrics at three hospitals in California. Her first acquaintance with Lubbock was an assignment to the former St. Mary of the Plains. Following a return to California she came back in 1960 as administrator and superior at St. Mary’s, a position she held for 23 years.
She directed the hospital’s first major fund-raising effort, which allowed the 10-bed facility to move and expand to 190 beds in its current location at Covenant Medical Center-Lakeside. Under her leadership the facility eventually grew to 390 beds.
Sister Maureen was also instrumental in the establishment of Tech’s medical school in the early ‘70s. While Tech built a teaching hospital, students were allowed to attend classes and met at St. Mary’s.
Even as a child, Joan Ervin says, she was aggressive and outspoken.
Those traits served her well as she grew into an advocate for Lubbock’s black community and for education in general.
In the late 1960s with a federal desegregation mandate facing city schools and rumors of the closing of her alma mater Dunbar High School, she wanted answers.
She quizzed then-Superintendent James Reynolds who responded to her inquiry with an invitation to serve an unexpired term on LISD’s school board. She joined the board in 1970 and two years later won the seat for Place 1, making her the first black person ever to serve on the board and the first woman to serve since 1923.
My desire was to somehow make Lubbock unified, to bring that idea of equal to reality, she told the A-J in an interview in 2000. “I wanted the best not only for my children, but for those all across the city.”
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