Sister Sandra DeNardis, formerly Sister Mary Jonathan, entered religious life in 1953 from St. Walburga parish in Pittsburgh’s East End neighborhood. She cites her mother’s prayerfulness as one of the influences that led her to becoming a Sister. Her blood sister, Sister Roseann DeNardis, is also a Sister of Divine Providence, having entered the Community several years before her. Sister Sandra earned a bachelor of arts degree in education from Duquesne University and a master of science degree in biology from Villanova University. She began her ministry as an elementary teacher at St. Joseph’s in Braddock. She taught at a number of elementary schools in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, including St. Sylvester (Brentwood), St. Norbert (Overbrook), and St. Mary’s (Sharpsburg) before moving to secondary education at St. Mary’s in McKees Rocks. Sister Sandra taught biology at Canevin High School in Pittsburgh’s South Hills (1962–68; 70–75), and she taught math, biology, chemistry, and physics at St. Basil’s High School in Carrick (1968–70).
In 1975, Sister Sandra began her relationship with La Roche College when she began teaching biological sciences. In 1979, she took a break from teaching to earn a doctor of arts degree in biological sciences from the University of Illinois in Chicago. She returned to La Roche in 1982 and, until 1990, was the chair of the natural sciences department and an associate professor of biology. She left La Roche to accept a position at Wheeling Jesuit University, where she was an associate professor (with tenure) of anatomy, physiology, and cardiopulmonary physiology. Of her time at La Roche, Sister Sandra states, “My time at La Roche was filled with so many opportunities, not only to see God’s Providence in the faces and lives of my students, but to bring God’s message to students as well as to those with whom I have worked as faculty or on the Board.”
Sister Sandra was elected to leadership within her Community in 1995 and returned to Pittsburgh. While serving as a Councillor, her keen interest in history led her to begin working in the Community Archives. After her term in leadership ended in 2001, Sister Sandra devoted herself to the archives and also worked part-time as volunteer coordinator for Providence Connections, Inc. She was instrumental in the smooth integration of the Community’s Kingston, Massachusetts and Puerto Rico archival information into one location in Pittsburgh.
Describing herself as “compassionate, funny, and caring,” she enjoys cooking, crocheting, and knitting. In 2014, she was named the La Roche College Woman of Providence.