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Alum Nora Scannell’s Impressive Career as a Police Woman

This year marks the centennial year for adult education at Loyola and we are celebrating the anniversary by gathering stories of our alumni who want to share their Loyola experience, and how it has transformed their lives. SCPS changed its name a number of times but it has consistently served adult students.

The following bio came from Nora Scannell, who graduated from University College in 1956 with degrees in both Sociology and Education. She went on to lead a full and successful life as a Chicago Police Woman. Since we received her story, however, we were saddened to learn that she passed away. Her remarkable spirit lives on.

My time at Loyola University began in 1950 when I started work there, in the registrars’ office. I wasn’t able to afford college right out of high school, so I looked for jobs that would allow me the flexibility to take some college courses. Working at Loyola enabled me to take a few classes after work in a truly prestigious school.  Inspired by a few great teachers I met in grade and high school, I aspired to be a teacher of Social Science, History and English. My major influencer, however, was my father. Despite what was expected of women of that era, he encouraged me to pursue higher education and was my greatest supporter.

In 1951 my father passed away after a serious illness. This was a devastating time for my family. As the only child still living at home, I had to concentrate on earning a living to keep our house and help support my mother. As a result, I had to put my education on hold. Around that time, a City of Chicago civil service exam was offered. In the fall of 1951, I took the exam, passed and subsequently became a Chicago Police Woman. My father, himself a retired Chicago Police Officer, would not have wanted this for me. He knew that I could take care of myself; all the same, he would have worried for my safety. The decision to become a Police Woman took my life in a new and unforeseen direction that greatly affected my future and who I would become. To this day, I proudly describe myself as an 87-year-old retired Police Woman.

I worked in the Women’s Bureau during my first few years as a Police Woman (a title and a department that no longer exists in the police force), and was able to sporadically continue my studies at Loyola. Depending on my work schedule, some semesters I was able to take up to three classes. Some days, if I had a late arrest or an early start, I didn’t make it to class. I am grateful for the teachers and my counselors there for understanding the demands of a full-time job and working with me to make up missed material. It was difficult to juggle home, work and school life. But it was worth the struggle. As a woman in a male-dominated work environment, I felt compelled to excel. Obtaining a degree was important to me. I like to think that I’ve been a mentor and a role model for police women who came after me.

I graduated from Loyola on June 13, 1956 with degrees in both Sociology and Education, proudly achieved while working full-time. I remember I had to leave the graduation ceremony early that day as I was expected in full dress police uniform at Grant Park for the first ever Police Women’s uniform inspection by then Mayor Richard J. Daley.

My Sociology and Education background gave me insight into the different types of people I crossed paths with in my line of work, giving me an edge and helping me throughout my career. After four years in the Women’s Bureau, I was recruited to work undercover in the Narcotics/Vice division, where I spent the majority of my career. To my amusement, my many nieces and nephews took to calling me “Auntie Narc.”

I never married and had no children, so I essentially ‘married the job.’ I loved my work. It was never boring, and I got a kind of satisfaction from it that couldn’t be obtained elsewhere. Each day was a new experience, and there was always something to learn. Some might think that I missed out on my opportunity for marriage and a family. But my family life was never lacking. I was one of six children. My sisters and brother blessed me with many nieces and nephews, and then great nieces and nephews, and eventually great-grand nieces and nephews. I am happy to say, I am Godmother to several. In fact, one Godson, followed in my footsteps as a Loyola alumni. He also is a graduate of Loyola’s adult learning program.

I retired from the Chicago Police Department when I was 60, about a year after an injury. But my drive to work, learn, and give back to my community did not end. I’ve worked and volunteered for many jobs since my retirement, including a county public safety sergeant, a religious education instructor and a senior citizens assistant.

If I could choose a way to describe how Loyola has influenced my life, it would be my need for continual education, far beyond the classroom. Whether this is applied to my career, my love of history or my love of travel, this is a fact that has resonated throughout my life. Finishing my degrees at Loyola as an adult student was a goal that I was proud to accomplish, despite the difficulties. And I know that my father would be proud of me, too.

If you would like to share your story as an alum, please email it to scps@luc.edu. We would love to hear from you.