Sister Agatha Riehl, OSB, 93, died February 7, 2015, at St. Scholastica Monastery. Born in Raleigh, North Dakota, on February 17, 1921, she was the daughter of Melchior and Emma (Wagner) Riehl. Sister Agatha was in her 74th year of Monastic Profession at the time of her death.
Sister was raised on a farm in North Dakota where she and her six siblings spoke only German at home. When in the 7th grade, she passed a test that would allow her to travel to Minnesota and attend Stanbrook Hall for her high school years, since there was no high school in the area where she lived. While she struggled with English the first year, she soon overcame her difficulty and became an honor student. When she graduated from high school in 1938, she knew she wished to grow in her relationship with God and entered St. Scholastica Monastery.
Sister Agatha professed her Triennial Vows on July 11, 1940, and her Perpetual Vows on July 11, 1943. She earned a BA in Nutrition from The College of St. Scholastica (CSS) in 1942. Sister Agatha was a talented scholar who discovered that she had a proclivity toward chemistry and analytical studies. In 1942, the Archbishop of Cincinnati gave an open invitation for several Sisters to come to a research facility, Institutum Divi Thomae, to study cancer. Sister Agatha was awarded a scholarship to participate in the program and returned to CSS in 1945 with a MA in biochemistry. She was co-founder with Sister Petra Lenta of a research laboratory at CSS within a year, taught chemistry half time, and continued cancer research half time. Sister Agatha worked closely with Sister Petra in the research lab, and they published a number of articles from 1949-1960 on their cancer research.
In 1958, Sister Agatha began graduate work in organic chemistry at Catholic University in Washington, DC, where she earned her Ph.D. in 1965, and returned to The College of St. Scholastica as a Professor of Chemistry, teaching full time from 1966-1996. She served as Chairperson of the Department of Chemistry at CSS from 1972-76. Then she served as Chairperson of the Natural Science Division at CSS from 1976 – 1992. From 1981-86 she was also Project Manager of an Environmental Protection Agency Cooperative Agreement Contract, a Federal Government grant to study water pollution control. In 1998, Sister Agatha retired from teaching Chemistry at CSS. Over the years Sister was a member of Sigma Xi, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Chemical Society and the American Institute of Chemists. She was the first recipient of the prestigious Max H. Lavine Award for Teaching Excellence in 1978.
Sister Agatha once declared, “I believe that each of us receives a call from God to the role that we are to play during our time on earth and that He gives us the necessary abilities to live out that role. I feel very privileged that my call has been to the Benedictine way of life.” Sister celebrated her Silver Jubilee August 15, 1965; her Golden Jubilee August 12, 1990; her Diamond Jubilee August 13, 2000; her 70th Jubilee August 15, 2010.
Sister Agatha was preceded in death by her parents, Melchior and Emma Riehl and her brother Eugene. Besides the Sisters of St. Scholastica, she is survived by her brothers Emil and Theodore and her sisters Dorothy Leader, Alvina Wang, and Sister Claudia, OSB, and many devoted nieces, nephews, friends and colleagues. The Wake service was on February 14, 2015, in Our Lady Queen of Peace Chapel at 9:30 a.m. The Mass of Christian Burial was at 11:00 a.m. with Father Brian Schultz, presiding. The interment is at Gethsemane Cemetery. Memorials to St. Scholastica Monastery are preferred. Arrangements are by Dougherty Funeral Home.