SAN ANTONIO – Our Lady of the Lake University’s last teaching Sister of Divine Providence is nearing the end of a distinguished career. After 41 years, Sister Margit M. Nagy, CDP, Ph.D., Professor of History, will be transitioning to another role next fall.
“I won’t be teaching full-time next year,” Sr. Margit said.
Born in Budapest, Hungary, Sr. Margit came to the United States as a child refugee of World War II. After graduating from Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) in 1966, she taught U.S History to high school students. During this time, she developed a particular interest in Asia and went on to the University of Washington and earned her Master of Arts degree in East Asian Studies and a Ph.D. in Japanese and Chinese history.
When Sr. Margit began her teaching career at OLLU in 1979, there were roughly 30 Sisters on the faculty and staff. Today, there are four, but only one is a full-time professor. The others are Sr. Barbara Masch, writing tutor, Sr. Ann Petrus, CDP, mathematics tutor and Sr. Christina Chavez, CDP, Assistant Director of University Ministry.
Due to COVID-19, Sr. Margit has been teaching fully online since mid-March 2020. Currently, she dedicates her time to a virtual classroom and being readily available to her students. With more flexibility in her future, she is looking forward to researching and organizing primary source materials she has gathered and translating them from Hungarian and Japanese to English, and writing. Once it is completed, she plans to donate her translation of her Marianist uncle’s memoir of life under Nazism and Communism to the Marianist archives.
She has found teaching meaningful and worthwhile and has taken great joy in helping students thrive. Throughout her teaching career, she has kept her congregation’s focus dear to her heart.
“Father Moye believed in women, that women were capable, and that has been our focus,” Sr. Margit said.
That focus is most prevalent through her hard work and the many years of dedication to her students and career, including co-founding OLLU’s Center for Women in Church and Society in 1982.
From the start of her career, she wanted students on the west side of San Antonio to have the best education possible, and to have the same opportunities as those students from a more privileged side of town. With an education in Japanese history, she knew it was essential for students to learn beyond their own culture.
She had a sense of unfairness as to why her students were not learning about other countries, while students from other parts of the world were learning about the United States.
“Why should we expect others, especially from Asia, to know about us, but we don’t bother to really look at the world and their culture with value enough for us to learn,” Sr. Margit said.
In 1984, she traveled to Japan to conduct postdoctoral research at the University of Tokyo School of Law as a Fulbright Visiting Professor with the intent of returning to San Antonio to teach Japanese history firsthand to her students. She established a course in modern Japanese history at OLLU in 1984. A Modern Asia course is still offered today.
She takes pride in knowing her congregation at the university has a record of educating women to bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. She is honored when students trust her enough to share their success with her. She believes that the greatest gift they can give to each other is to be authentic and she hopes students see things through the perspective of faith.
“To students of the world of 2021 and beyond, trust the call you have within. If God and Providence open the door, have the courage to at least try. Be grateful for the people and open to the ideas that Providence has brought into your life, even if it is challenging. Think about what the deeper purpose is. It is not just about success. Success comes and goes. Use your talents to achieve that deep, meaning within. You are a blessing,” Sr. Margit said.
Earning a doctorate earned her a degree of acceptance and strengthened her credentials in other countries. While she was president of the Japan American Society, she would make trips to Japan to welcome delegations. Since Japan is not a Catholic or Christian culture, she was known as Dr. Nagy to them.
In 2015, the government of Japan presented Sr. Margit with the Order of Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon Award in recognition of her esteemed service in the promotion of the mutual understanding between Japan and the United States.
Her favorite hobbies include baking Hungarian bread, translating documents and taking nature walks. Her comfort food is kalács, a Hungarian bread.
“There’s nothing like the smell of homemade bread. That always reminds me of the smell of my mother’s kitchen,” Sr. Margit said.
She credits her mother for keeping her Hungarian culture alive.
If you would like more information on Sr. Margit M. Nagy, please visit her History with Sr. Margit Nagy presentation.