University community mourns loss of Sister Leona Misto
The Salve Regina community is mourning the loss of Sister Leona Misto, vice president for mission integration and planning, who died Monday, Oct. 17.
As a child, Sister Leona visited Salve Regina many times to see her aunt, a Sister of Mercy, who was assigned to the campus during the summer months. Later she enrolled at the institution and graduated summa cum laude in 1962. In addition to her B.A.in mathematics from Salve Regina, she received an M.A. in religious studies from Providence College, an M.A.T. in mathematics from Rhode Island College, an Ed.D. in higher education from Nova Southeastern University, and a certificate in educational management from Harvard University.
Sister Leona returned to her alma mater in 1980, and during her 36-year tenure she served the Salve Regina community in a number of capacities, including professor of mathematics, chairwoman of the mathematics department, dean of campus ministry and director of graduate extension studies. It was in this capacity that she established one of the first online education programs in the country in 1984. She was named vice president for mission integration and planning in 2001.
“During her 36 years of excellent and generous service to Salve Regina, Sister Leona embodied and made real the University’s mission of mercy,” said President Jane Gerety, RSM. “In a wide variety of positions – from math professor to vice president for mission integration and planning – she cared for students, staff, faculty and the environment, inspiring all to think, to care and act in a spirit of mercy, that attribute of God that shows love in the face of need.”
Sister Leona’s devotion to the mercy mission and her steadfast commitment to incorporating the basic principles of Salve Regina’s mission into the academic curriculum, student life programs and institutional operations inspired students, faculty, staff and alumni to positively influence the intellectual, spiritual and cultural lives of their respective communities.
She worked tirelessly with faculty to understand the connections between the Catholic intellectual tradition and mercy through the faculty collegium, publications and faculty panels relating mercy to specific academic disciplines. She engaged the entire academic community in important and continuing dialogues related to diversity, inclusion and sustainability. The framed mission statement, crucifix and water filling stations found in every campus building, as well as the University’s labyrinth and hydroponic garden, stand as physical reminders of her presence and success as a true steward of God’s creations.
Undaunted in her commitment to and advocacy for economically challenged young people, Sister Leona established the Sophia Endowed Scholarship at Salve Regina to provide need-based assistance to attain a baccalaureate degree. Additionally, she established the University’s mission integration grant program and an aid program to help students purchase textbooks. An adviser to and supporter of both the University’s Sigma Phi Sigma honor society and the Environmental Advisory Group, she worked tirelessly to support all aspects of students’ education.
In her latest publication, a compendium on mission integration, Sister Leona wrote: “The heart and life of Salve Regina University’s community is its mission.” Appropriately, in October 2014, the University celebrated the dedication of the Misto Gatehouse in honor of Sister Leona’s decades of service, generosity and commitment to the core values of Mercy at Salve Regina.
Ever cheerful, and ever encouraging, Sister Leona’s wide smile brought grace, light and a little hint of mischief to those on campus and beyond. Her time and treasures were shared with other organizations and institutions such as Child & Family, Marian Court College and the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities. Wherever she went and wherever she served, Sister Leona wove compassionate attention to both the spiritual and corporal works of mercy into the fabric of her actions, inspiring the alignment of spirit, word and deed with the mercy ideals of community, service and social justice. Largely through her vision, Salve Regina embraced a distinctively mercy identity that will continue to transform its graduates and encourage them to work for a world that is harmonious, just and merciful.
Her funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 22 at St. Mary’s Church in Newport, with a reception to follow in the Young Building. To honor and memorialize Sister Leona’s work, donations may be made to Salve Regina University/Sophia Scholarship Fund, 100 Ochre Point Ave., Newport RI 02840. In addition, condolences may be left below.