Sister Mary Helene Probst, CCVI, Speech, Theatre and Incarnate Word High School
A native Texan from Amarillo Sister Mary Helene earned her degree in 1939 from IWC and her gentle soft spoken manner made her flair for the dramatic a pleasant surprise. To say that she was a dynamic teacher and ahead of her time would be an understatement, amplified by the fact that her students were women. The stories abound. Here and at Incarnate Word Academy in St Louis.
One of her IWC students was unable to give a speech in public and was paralyzed with fear. Not a problem. Sister took the student to a room lined with lockers and with the student on one side and she on the other the speech was rehearsed over and over until the fear barrier was broken. Her speech students were booked on radio programs locally to give them exposure to a wider audience, and the puppet theatre she developed from scratch gave her yet another experience, and a new audience.
Sister Mary Helene continued the tradition of major productions with an all female cast. Some were also done in larger venues off campus and from time to time included students from other schools, males included. Her stroke of genius was her production of The Upper Room where she cast Mary Helen Pinner in the role of Judas because she had flaming red hair. And “Pinkie” as she was called was even invited back after graduation for a revived production.
Pinkie was called by her one Christmas Eve during WW II to gather some members of the College Chorale to entertain wounded troops at Fort Sam Houston later that day. Pinkie now admits that she was able to get students for the job, but they were not all chorale caliber. Mission accomplished with an Army commendation.
After years at the College Sister moved on to Incarnate Word High School after which she retired leaving a well-spoken legacy, and her redheaded Judas established as scholarship at UIW in theatre to honor her.
This is our heritage. Making a Difference.