As St. Hilda’s & St. Hugh’s marked the 70th anniversary of its opening day on February 2, 2020, it lost one of its founders. Sister Elise, who joined The Rev. Mother Ruth and Sister Edith Margaret to found St. Hilda’s & St. Hugh’s, died on Sunday at the age of 98. Sister Elise was surrounded by her CHS sisters at their home in Brewster, NY.
“Sister Elise was one of our school’s most significant figures. Along with Mother Ruth and Sister Edith Margaret, she was here from the very beginning,” said Head of School Virginia Connor. “She was a mentor to me in this job, especially in my early headship. I would walk with her in Riverside Park, and when I asked her for advice, she would turn to me and say, ‘You know exactly what to do.’”
Born Zoe Euverard on July 5, 1921, Sister Elise later became the head of the Melrose School, the sisters’ satellite campus in Brewster, NY. She also taught Latin, African and Asian Studies, and handbells.
An accomplished musician, Sister Elise had a bachelor’s degree from The Juilliard School; she later earned a master’s degree in education from Columbia University. Alumni and her sisters in the Community of the Holy Spirit remember her for her kindness, friendship, practicality, and her perfect musical pitch.
According to In Wisdom Thou Hast Made Them, Mother Ruth’s memoir, Sister Elise (still known as Zoe then) joined their community just after she had completed her degree from Juilliard and was accepted by a deaconess training college in Philadelphia. “She was actually on the bus en route there to begin her studies when she had an interior conviction which said: ‘Go and give yourself to God as a Sister.’ She turned round, cancelled everything, and came to the Community.”
This conviction abided with her throughout her life. “I really don’t have my roots set down here in this house—I’ll be happy to live anywhere,” she told The New York Times in 2009, in an article about the Community’s construction of a “green” convent in Harlem. “I already have a reservation in another place.”