Loyola Chicago upset No. 1 seed Illinois in the NCAA tournament this week, advancing to the Sweet Sixteen. If you’re not familiar with the Ramblers basketball program, there’s still a good chance you’ve heard a thing or two about Sister Jean.
The team chaplain since 1994, Sister Jean has been known locally in Chicago for many years — she was honored with “Sister Jean Day” in 2012. Her national presence grew when the 11th-seeded Loyola team reached the Final Four in 2018.
She has become a symbol so popular that the Loyola bookstore sold almost 19,000 of her bobbleheads in 2018, a number which included orders from all 50 states. At the time, Sister Jean bobbleheads from 2011 were listed on eBay for $300.
Naturally, this year’s tournament has been a bit different for Jean Dolores Schmidt.
The 101-year-old has given her famous scouting report by video conference this season due to COVID-19. But this isn’t the first global pandemic Sister Jean has lived through — she was born during the Spanish flu crisis.
After receiving both vaccine doses and following COVID-19 protocols, Sister Jean was granted permission to attend the tournament this year, allowing her to see the men’s team for the first time since she was sent home from campus last March.
The bobbleheads are back with a new model Sister Jean is “truly honored” to see. More than 2,000 have been sold for $25 apiece. Sister Jean refuses to pocket any of the proceeds, which instead go to Loyola’s athletic department and her religious institute.