Remembering Dorothy Dunn '45

Dorothy Dunn, PhD

Immaculate Heart High School & Middle School mourns the passing of alumna Dorothy Dunn, Class of 1945, who died Sunday, December 4, at the age of 94. Dunn wore many hats in her lengthy career – as an educator, a businesswoman and, most recently, as an author. Only last year, her novel “New Art” was published after 40 years in the making and inspired by her own experiences as a nun and teacher during a time of upheaval within the Catholic Church.

Dunn became a Sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) following her high school graduation and taught both elementary school and high school while earning a doctorate in philosophy from St. Louis University. During the 1960s, Dunn and other IHMs bravely stood up to the patriarchy of the Catholic Church, fighting for equality, their livelihoods, and their own freedom against the powerful and conservative Los Angeles Cardinal J. Francis McIntyre, who sought to keep them in their place. The 2021 documentary “Rebel Hearts” features Dunn among other IHMs as they recall the escalating clashes with McIntyre that resulted in their heart-rending choice of submitting to his demands or renouncing their vows.

After leaving the convent in the late 1960s, Dunn taught philosophy at Immaculate Heart College, Loyola Marymount, and then went on to work in business before her retirement. For her 70th high school reunion, she reflected on her Immaculate Heart experience and how the school encouraged young women to “stretch themselves” by enjoying sports, tackling hard subjects like math, science, and Latin, and taking on leadership positions. It was only later in life, she said, that she appreciated how deeply profound the school’s impact was on her life.

“Immaculate Heart made it easy, or at least possible, at that early age, to glimpse worlds very different from our own,” she said, recalling volunteer opportunities at County General Hospital and visits to La Soledad in East L.A. “Through various outreach activities we saw people in our own city living lives very different from ours, lives without the opportunities we had. It had something to do with Immaculate Heart being a Catholic school, with IHM sisters, I figured. And I’m grateful to IH for this – and a great deal more.”

Dunn Alumnae Development Fund

Dorothy will be missed by our entire school family, and her legacy will live on through the Dunn Alumnae Development Fund she created and supported throughout her life. This fund is dedicated to passionately telling the story of our school's mission and enhancing support for our alumnae community.

Immaculate Heart High School & Middle School

5515 Franklin Avenue • Los Angeles, California 90028
phone: (323) 461-3651 • fax: (323) 462-0610
A Catholic, independent college preparatory school for girls in grades 6 through 12, Immaculate Heart has been located on a beautiful hillside property in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles since our founding by the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1906. We celebrate more than a century of nurturing the spiritual, intellectual, social and moral development of students as they distinguish themselves as women of great heart and right conscience.