Sister Clare Immaculate McDonnell, 91, an educator in the Philadelphia area for 58 years, died of heart failure Thursday, Dec. 15, at Assisi House, the retirement residence for the Sisters of St. Francis in Aston.

From 1984 until her retirement in 2005, Sister Clare Immaculate was a professor of English at Neumann University in Aston.

She published articles in professional journals, and received grants for study in England and Wales and at universities in the United States on subjects including medieval literature, African Americans, the Renaissance, comedy in the classics, and Shakespeare's depiction of law.

In the 1990s, Sister Clare Immaculate helped establish the Franciscan Resource Center at Neumann and became its curator. She was also involved in the development of the Neumann Institute for Franciscan Studies.

When she received an honorary doctorate from Neumann in 1998, the accompanying citation read: "Sister Clare Immaculate McDonnell is a quiet, humble, religious woman with a twinkle of merriment in her eyes, an intellectual with a terrific sense of humor."

"She never stopped learning, and shared her experiences and resources she gained during her research with the faculty," said colleague Claudia Kovach, a professor of English and French and a former dean of arts and sciences at Neumann. "She was dedicated to the students and was enthusiastic about working with [them] one on one on special projects."

Sister Clare Immaculate and a sibling, Jeanette Clare McDonnell, also a Sister of St. Francis, established a scholarship in honor of their parents for students who "volunteer for activities relative to the spiritual and or academic development of Neumann University."

She was a member of the essay evaluation committee of the Educational Testing Service.

Before joining the Neumann faculty, she was a religion teacher at West Philadelphia Catholic High School and at John W. Hallahan Catholic High School for Girls, and taught English for 24 years at St. Hubert's High School, where she headed the English department for several years.

She also taught in Catholic schools in Wilmington, Harrisburg, and Allentown.

Growing up in Philadelphia's Fairmount section as Genevieve Clare McDonnell, Sister Clare Immaculate attended St. Francis Xavier School and graduated from Hallahan. She attended Rosemont College on a scholarship but left after two years, in 1940, to enter the convent of the Sisters of St. Francis.

She earned a bachelor's degree in English from Villanova University in 1946, a master's degree in English from Catholic University of America, and a master's degree in humanities from Pennsylvania State University.

She is survived by nieces and nephews.

A wake is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 21, followed by a Funeral Mass at 11, at Assisi House, 600 Red Hill Rd., Aston. Burial will be in Our Lady of Angels Cemetery, Aston.

Donations may be made to Sisters of St. Francis Foundation, 609 S. Convent Rd., Aston, Pa. 19014.

Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or sdowney@phillynews.com.