Sister Spotlight: Lavergne Schwender, OP
At the end of May, Houston Dominican Lavergne Schwender, OP, will retire from her ministry in Houston as the Executive Director of the Greater Harris County 9-1-1 Emergency Network, a position she has held for sixteen years.
During her life as a Dominican Sister, Lavergne says she has been blessed with incredibly satisfying ministries. Like most Houston Dominicans, teaching was her first ministry. She taught fifth graders at Sacred Heart Catholic School in downtown Houston and says, “I don’t know how much they learned, but we certainly loved one another.” The school eventually closed, but Lavergne and her students stayed in touch through their fifth-grade reunions for quite a few years. Lavergne also taught business for five years at St. Pius X High School in Houston. She then moved to Austin, Texas to serve as the director of Newman Hall, the women’s dormitory at the University of Texas owned and operated by the Dominican Sisters of Houston. While there, she met some life-long friends. For Lavergne, ministering at Newman Hall, which was next to the university, “was like living across the street from a gold mine.” She spent a year completing her MBA and eventually prepared for the law school entrance exam while at Newman Hall.
After graduating from Bates College of Law at the University of Houston, Lavergne began working in Houston for the Harris County Attorney’s office. “I always felt that my mission there was to make sure, from my little corner of the office, that government did what it was supposed to do – serve the people.” Lavergne served Harris County residents by ensuring elections in the county were free from racial discrimination and complied with the requirements of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department. She also served the county by writing legislation. In 1983 – 1984, Lavergne’s experience in both policy and election oversight converged when she both wrote the legislation and oversaw the election that created the county’s emergency communication district, the Greater Harris County 9-1-1 Emergency Network (GHC). Lavergne served in the Harris County Attorney’s office for 21 years.
In 2004, when the GHC 9-1-1 Emergency Network’s first executive director, Laverne Hogan, passed away, the GHC Board asked Sister Lavergne to serve as executive director, which she has done since May 2005. Reflecting on her time as executive director, Lavergne remarked, “As you might imagine, an emergency communication district is steeped in telephone technology – not exactly my strong suit. However, more than technology, the executive director must lead the staff into becoming a productive, effective whole. Working with the GHC 9-1-1 staff has been one of the most rewarding efforts of my professional life. Not only has working with them been highly successful, but it has also been joyous. They are a staff I shall long remember.”Sister Lavergne continues to serve her community in numerous ways with both her business and legal experience.