Sister Mary Louise Miller served as Principal of Sisters Academy of NJ for 22 years, from 1999-2021. She retired on June 30, 2021. She views her tenure at the Academy as an honor and privilege. Mercy Center considers it truly remarkable. The positive impact she has made on so many lives at the Academy is immeasurable. She was not only the Principal, but also as an advocate, a listener, a safe space provider and the biggest supporter of all students who have passed through the Academy.
Education was always a passion for Sister, as her early days as a Sister of Mercy nun entailed being a Principal for several New Jersey schools. Prior to being appointed Principal of the Academy, Sister Mary Lou played countless roles in the development of the Mercy Center and the Academy.
In addition to holding a master’s degree and a PhD in education administration, Sister Mary Lou also earned a law degree from Seton Hall Law School. While working in private practice, she became involved with the Mercy Center in 1985 when asked to provide other legal services related to establishing the non-profit organization. Soon after, Sister Mary Lou decided to leave her law firm and set up her own practice in one of the Mercy Center buildings. Specializing in utilities and land use planning law, she played an integral role in the acquisition of multiple properties for the building of both Sisters Academy and Mercy Center.
Sister Mary Lou was once again drawn to the world of education in 1999, when she was assigned as Principal at Sisters Academy and fueled a long-term vision for the Academy. Sister Mary Lou oversaw the Academy’s transformation from a make shift school in the rented Peter Claver Youth Center to the two story, state of the art school it is today. Then in 2010, she worked 12-15 hours every day, seven days a week for nine weeks straight as she re-built the Academy after a devastating flood.
During her tenure, Sister Mary Lou guided the Academy through the decennial approval of Accreditation by NJAIS and MSA-CESS, including a five year status report in early 2021, all while dealing with Covid-19 issues. She also led the Academy to obtain recognition as a nationally recognized Core Knowledge School, oversaw the completion of recent renovations, facility improvements and exterior building upgrades.
Her most challenging time ever at the Academy was the time from March 2020 up until her retirement in June of 2021. Nothing in an administrator’s educational background prepared her for the pandemic. There were no formal health and safety guidelines for re-opening schools. It was a very stressful time. Sister did, however, develop all new protocols, curriculums, schedules and hybrid learning models. She requested a grant so that each girl was issued a Chromebook and the entire building was outfitted with materials, supplies and technology to ensure the safety of all the staff and students. The Academy was able to open in September of 2020 because of Sister Mary Lou’s determination and remained open all school year.
Sister’s greatest achievement was the Academy’s 100% high school graduate rate since inception. Over 300 girls have graduated high school while she was Principal. Many alumnae are accomplished leaders because of their education and experience at Sisters Academy.
Mercy Center was blessed by Sister Mary Lou’s years of service, dedication, hard work and outstanding stewardship. Her impact in the Asbury Park community will be appreciated by many for years to come.