Sister Donna Marie (Carolyn Marie) Beck, CSJ, 87, died Wednesday, June 12, 2019, in the 70th year of her religious life as a Sister of St. Joseph. The daughter of the late Fred and Mary Carolyn Sheridan Beck, Sister Donna Marie entered the Congregation from St. Patrick parish in Gallitzin, PA.
Surrounded by a musical family, Sister Donna Marie began playing the organ at daily Mass from the time she was 12 years old. Before pursuing music therapy studies in the 1970s, Sister Donna Marie was a music teacher in the Diocese of Pittsburgh schools, including St. Veronica, St. Raphael and Mon Valley high schools and Fontbonne Academy. While teaching, Sister Donna Marie also directed music sessions for nurses at St. Joseph Hospital.
She coordinated the music therapy internship program at Polk State Center, co-founded the music therapy program at Marywood College, and initiated the music therapy program at Villa St. Joseph. One of the first students to earn certification from Duquesne University’s music therapy program in 1976, Sister Donna Marie subsequently succeeded her mentor as chair of the department a few years later. Following retirement from her full-time position as Chair and Director of the Music Therapy Department in 2008, she continued to work part-time as Professor Emerita of Music Therapy.
Sister Donna Marie was at the forefront of music therapy for more than 30 years. Under her leadership, Duquesne strengthened its national reputation in the field. Her scholarship in such areas as spirituality and guided imagery has been widely published and acclaimed for expanding the frontiers of a relatively young discipline, and her advocacy has resulted in the expansion of music therapy services throughout the Pittsburgh area’s health care facilities, from children’s hospitals to residential homes for the elderly. Sister Donna Marie conducted music therapy workshops and seminars nationally and internationally and has received numerous honors including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Music Therapy Association.
Just last year, Sister Donna Marie re-connected with nearly 50 former students and colleagues at a music therapist conference in Pittsburgh where many described her radiant spirit, humble and infinite wisdom, open heart and quiet strength. Her greatest tribute is the generations of students who became her colleagues and the thousands of lives that she has transformed through music. “Preparing young people to be compassionate and competent music therapists has been a beautiful blessing for me,” she said. “Music has truly been a servant source in my own spiritual growth as well as that of my students.”
Sister Donna Marie is survived by two sisters, Carolyn Nickerson (Robert) of Cresson, PA, and Maureen Beck (Thomas), of Baltimore, MD, nieces and nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews, and the Associates and the Sisters of St. Joseph. Friends will be received Sunday, June 16 from 1 p.m. to the close of the Prayer Vigil and Monday, June 17 from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Joseph. Prayer Vigil will be Sunday, June 16 at 6 p.m. at the Motherhouse. Mass of Christian Burial will be offered Monday, June 17 at 4 p.m. Donations in the name of Sister Donna Marie may be sent to the Sisters of St. Joseph Memorial Fund, Development Office, 1020 State St., Baden, PA, 15005.