The Nun Study

Educators to the End

Cover of TIME Magazine featuring The Nun Study regarding Alzheimer's - May 14, 2001In 1986, Dr. David Snowdon introduced his research on aging to the School Sisters of Notre Dame in Mankato, MN, and asked for their participation in a pilot study. In 1991, additional participation by School Sisters of Notre Dame throughout the United States led to a total of 678 members in his study that is now known as the Nun Study. These sisters, dedicated to education, saw his request as another way to teach, even beyond their lifetimes. View some photos and the chart of The Nun Study participants.

Archival data on each sister was/is an important component of Dr. Snowdon’s research. Discover how this data was utilized to further medical research by reading The American Archivist article written by a member of Dr. Snowdon’s staff, Gari-Anne Patzwald and Sister Carol Marie Wildt, SSND Archivist.

Numerous articles have appeared on the Nun Study, but the appearance of Sister Hermana Maurer on the cover of TIME magazine was a first in SSND history. She is one of three women religious ever to be pictured on the cover of TIME: Mother Mary Columba of Maryknoll, in 1955, and Mother Theresa of Calcutta, in 1975. The TIME article, The Nun Study: How one scientist and 678 sisters are helping unlock the secrets of Alzheimer's was one of the various perspectives on the importance of the study. Another example is the presentation by CNN, "The Nuns' Story". Facilitator Directions are available.

In his research, Dr. Snowdon compares two German sisters who came to the U.S. during Nazism. Read an account of their lives, “A Tale of Two Sisters,” as seen through the lens of the Nun Study and narrated in Aging with Grace, by Dr. David Snowdon. (Bantam Books, 2001) His book has been translated into Spanish, Japanese, German, Dutch, Thai, Korean, and Chinese.

Engaging the aging process is a universal phenomenon. Sister Mary Luke Baldwin, SSND reflects on an experience many face in her essay, Step by Step.

Sister Genevieve Kunkel gives another perspective on the Nun Study as you listen to her reading the testimony she gave before Congress in 2004.

Sister Anne Mayer is one of the most recent participants to reach her 100th birthday.

View her interview of 1993 and see her birthday celebration on November 12, 2005.

School Sisters of Notre Dame see aging and death as opportunities to deepen spirituality. A wake service has been prepared with this context in mind. Reflect on this ultimate moment in life. 

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