Augusta Zimmer, SC
The artwork gracing the Mater Dei Chapel comes from the hearts and hands of Sr. Augusta Zimmer and her art students. An internationally known artist of her time, Sr. Augusta empowered her students to capture a spiritual message when creating the Chapel’s works of art.
Sr. Augusta began as a science teacher, but was quickly sent to the Chicago Art Institute to explore her God-given talent – art. Her expertise as an artist and teacher came from years of traveling the world and studying art. She began her international studies in Europe, Egypt and the Holy Land in 1935, when she received a traveling fellowship.
In 1955, Sr. Augusta studied in Florence, Italy, and earned her Master of Fine Arts degree. During her two years in Florence, she developed a strong interest in ceramics and became fascinated with Venetian glass mosaics, which is reflected in the Mater Dei Chapel.
After spending 33 years as a teacher at the College of Mount St. Joseph, including 14 years as the chair of the Art Department, Sr. Augusta retired in 1971. She was then awarded an opportunity to travel to Iran to study Persian art forms, and continued to create art until her death on December 15, 1990.
Sr. Augusta never had an art show of her own, yet the Mater Dei Chapel stands as one of her greatest living works of art. However, she would be the first to extend the credit to the main contributors of the Chapel artwork, her students, specifically Margaret Rolfes Brungs ’60, Judy Dettenwanger Ebbeler ’61 and Marlene Hoffman ’61.
The Mater Dei Chapel is a centerpiece of campus, with the iconic Corona Tower and its three bells visible from points across the grounds of Mount St. Joseph University. The chapel serves as the spiritual and communal heart of the university.
Sister Karen Elliott, SC, the Mount’s director of mission integration, began to assess how to spruce up the chapel, which had not had a large-scale restoration since its construction was completed in 1962.