Spring 2009 Issue

Sister Carol Coston, OP, ’62

2008 Distinguished Adrian Dominican Alumna Award

Sister Carol Coston’s life changed when she taught high school for three years in Puerto Rico.

For years she had read about the small island, seeing it through the eyes of others and through the prism of American culture.

But experiencing it firsthand dispelled her preconceptions.

“I was able to see how U.S. public policy and cultural attitudes impacted the people of Puerto Rico,” Coston says. “People kept saying they should just pick themselves up by their own bootstraps. But when I saw how they lived, you could see that wasn’t possible. There was a real arrogance in American policy back then.”

Coston has since dedicated much of her life to trying to right that wrong and lift up impoverished people of the world.

In the 1970s, she was the founding director of NETWORK, a national Catholic lobby. Based in Washington, D.C., the organization has lobbied thousands of nuns and lay people to advocate for women’s rights, economic justice and an end to Apartheid in South Africa.

Coston also founded Partners for the Common Good – a nonprofit loan fund that supports women and minority-owned businesses, low-cost housing and community development programs.

It has provided more than $11 million in low-interest credit to low-income communities both nationally and globally, and, in 2000, the organization received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Microenterprise.

In 2002, Coston co-founded Santuario Sisterfarm, a nonprofit ecology center in the Texas Hill Country. Grounded in the rich multicultural legacy of the borderlands, Santuario Sisterfarm is dedicated to diminishing the threat of climate change through recycling, organic composting practices and the use of non-toxic products in the earth.

In 2001, Coston received the Presidential Citizens Medal, one of the highest honors the president can confer upon a civilian. It is awarded “in recognition of U.S. citizens who have performed exemplary deeds of service for our nation.” She is the only Catholic Sister to receive this award. Coston holds a Master of Arts from Catholic University of America and three honorary doctorates.