When Sister Antoine-Marie Baurier left Paris in 1969, it was for a one-year teaching assignment at Marymount College in Rancho Palos Verdes.
Today, she is a flourishing faculty member, leadership model and icon at the university.
Baurier is the only original nun left at Marymount, which was established in 1968 by her order, the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary as Marymount Palos Verdes College.
“In those days there were 15 or 16 of us," Baurier said. "We considered it ‘our’ school. The dean was one of our sisters, the registrar was one, the boss in the business office was one too.”
Baurier’s one-year assignment was extended and eventually stretched into five decades. She joined the faculty, enrolled at UCLA and earned a master’s degree and a doctorate in French literature.
The college went through many evolutions over the years until it became Marymount California University in 2013.
Baurier remained through all of the changes. She continued to teach and has served on the university’s board of trustees for the past five presidents.
“There is no one else at Marymount California University that can be such an inspiration, historian, or example of the mission of the University,” said Brian Marcotte, president of the university. “She is our current and tangible link to our founders.”
In the early days of the school, the RSHM order of nuns took great care of “their” school.
In the 1970s, the sisters gave 75% of their salaries back to the college. And, in 2000, they donated their convent to the college. At that time, Baurier moved to the Villas, a gated housing community for students owned by Marymount on Palos Verdes Drive North.
Over the years, Baurier also worked as a translator for the RSHM order. She crossed the Atlantic Ocean at least 65 times for their international meetings, traveling all over Europe.
Though she no longer travels, Baurier continues to enthusiastically teach language classes at Marymount.
“Language is my forte,” she said proudly. “The kids are still the same, the only thing is that now they could be my great-grand kids.”
In addition, Baurier takes her language classes on the road once a month, teaching Spanish at Harbor Terraces, a retirement home in San Pedro.
“I entertain the residents for an hour or two once a month,” she said happily. “At first we only had eight to ten people, but it’s a lot of fun and now there’s plenty more people.”
Sister Antoine-Marie's early years
Baurier grew up in Europe and her early life was not easy with her family having lived through some of the worst conflicts of the 20th century.
“When I was extremely young, my mother woke me in the middle of the night and told me to get up—the Spanish Revolution had begun and we had to go to France,” she recalled.
“We moved to France, but soon after that World War II started and my family had to return to Spain. Although I was French, I was born in Spain. I grew up with one foot on either side of the Pyrenees depending on where the conflicts were. I spoke three languages, French, Spanish and Catalan, by the time I was five.”
To learn English, Baurier attended a junior college in Barcelona, run by RSHM nuns. She was inspired to join the order by the American and Irish sisters who taught her she said. They sent her to Paris where she earned a BA in science from the Sorbonne.
After that, Baurier taught elementary school in France until she accepted the Marymount assignment.
Fifty years later, Sister Antoine is preparing for Mission Week—an annual event that takes place during the last week of March to celebrate Marymount’s heritage.
Nine years ago when the event started, Baurier was honored with the first Mission Award because of her dedication as an educator, her leadership as a member of the board of trustees and her devotion to the university.
This year she will be guiding visitors on historical tours of the property.
“I wanted to do something we’ve never done before,” Baurier explained. “I’ve been here fifty years and I know how things were and how they are now. It’s a trip down memory lane. I’ll direct visitors to different places on the campus, tell them little stories and explain to them what used to be there and what they’re seeing now.”