Sister Mary Leanne to retire as Regina president

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published February 15, 2019

 Leanne, center, meets John McCain, right, and his wife, Cindy McCain, when  the late senator ran for president in 2008. When McCain had been captured during the Vietnam War, Leanne wore a POW bracelet in his honor. She wanted to give the  jewelry piece to him when she met him, but he told her to keep it.

Leanne, center, meets John McCain, right, and his wife, Cindy McCain, when the late senator ran for president in 2008. When McCain had been captured during the Vietnam War, Leanne wore a POW bracelet in his honor. She wanted to give the jewelry piece to him when she met him, but he told her to keep it.

Photo provided by Regina High School

 Sister Mary Leanne is retiring as Regina High School president this July.  She has also been a teacher and principal at the all-girls Catholic school.

Sister Mary Leanne is retiring as Regina High School president this July. She has also been a teacher and principal at the all-girls Catholic school.

Photo provided by Regina High School

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WARREN — Since 1974, Sister Mary Leanne has been a comforting presence at Regina High School, first as a teacher, then as principal and later as president.

For the past 45 years, she has taught and nurtured students, as well as carried on many traditions at the all-girls Catholic high school. Leanne also was helpful in the 2000s when the school relocated from Harper Woods to its current building in Warren.

On Jan. 25, the dedicated nun announced to the school’s board of directors that she will retire from her position as president, effective July 31 of this year. The decision to retire “was an extremely difficult one,” but Leanne feels “it’s time.”

“I love Regina High School and all of the many students that have attended,” said Leanne, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph, Third Order of St. Francis. “This has been my life for 45 years. Just to think what am I going to do once I am not here is probably the scary part. I’m so used to being here every day.”

But she isn’t going far. Upon her retirement, Leanne will assume the position of president emeritus and will continue to mentor students and participate in school events and traditions.    

“I wish Sister Leanne a well-deserved retirement, and I’m thrilled that she will remain working with us at Regina in her new role,” Principal Ann Diamond said in a prepared statement. “I was privileged to attend Regina High School when Sister Leanne was principal, and I’m honored that I was able to work in partnership with her to continue the mission of transforming girls into women of faith and vision.”


Finding her calling
Leanne grew up down the street from Sweetest Heart of Mary Catholic Church on Russell Street in Detroit.

“Because we were so close to the church, it was easy for us to be active,” said Leanne, the youngest of seven children. “My dad was part of the men’s group.”

The power of prayer was instilled in her at a young age.

“When you pray, God will take care of you,” she learned. “When I need something or when I’m in trouble, pray and it will be OK. I was brought up in a very prayerful family environment. It was just common for us to pray as a family sometimes.”

By the time she was 5 years old, the future nun knew serving the Lord was her destiny. It also was the age when her grandfather died.

When her aunt, a Felician sister, came to town to pay her respects, Leanne’s brother picked up the aunt by car from the local Felician academy, where she stayed at the time of the funeral. During the drive back, Leanne sat in the back seat with her aunt, who put her hand on her knee and told her, “Someday you’re going to replace me.”

“It didn’t mean much to me at the time,” the young girl thought.

By early adulthood, Leanne worked in a laboratory at the former Holy Cross Hospital in Detroit, where she developed an interest in science. She also was attending the University of Detroit at the time when she decided to enter the convent. Leanne became a nun and also taught science at the all-girls Marymount High School in Garfield Heights, Ohio, which later became coeducational Trinity High School.

“I always want young people to really enjoy high school, to enjoy learning and to enjoy the activities, so they have memories of what took place when they were in high school,” Leanne said of her philosophy. “Being a principal, you have to do some hard things. You have to make some hard calls. You make decisions you don’t want to make.”

With her students in Ohio, the educator raised animals, including lambs, a monkey, guinea pigs and mice.

“She has a knack with animals and a love for animals,” Regina Advancement Director Cindy Corey said.

Music also has played a big part for Leanne. At one time, she was the drummer of the Sisters of St. Joseph band from Garfield Heights, Ohio. The band — which included flute, violin and trombone music — toured different parts of the country and even appeared on television.  

“We had a whole orchestra and a choir,” she said. “We played all kinds of music.”

Although she enjoyed living in Ohio, Leanne moved back to the Detroit area after her father died in order to be near her mother. That’s when she came to Regina, where she has left a lasting impression.

“The rest of the students, faculty and alumni are going to miss her. When my mom was a student at Regina, she was really good at integrating herself into the Regina community,” Regina senior and student council president Olivia Pozsgay said. “Even now, she still participates in Masses. She is always smiling. It’s especially nice to see sisters at the Catholic schools.”

Class of 2004 graduate Meghan Sweeney Bean, who is currently on the Regina board of directors, agreed.

“Sister Leanne was instrumental in implementing many of our favorite Regina traditions … Freshman Induction, Sophomore Day, Junior Ring Ceremony, Senior Powderpuff,” she said. “These traditions are a special part of the Regina experience that alumnae carry with them for the rest of their lives. She deeply cares about the students and has played an important role in shaping Regina girls into impressive and faith-filled women who positively impact their communities.”

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