Sister Delia McDonald, the former principal of St. Mary’s Dominican High School in New Orleans for nearly two decades, died Feb. 11 at the Mohun Health Care Center of the Dominican Sisters in Columbus, Ohio. She was 79.

McDonald was born in New Orleans and graduated from Dominican High School and Dominican College, where she majored in biology and secondary education. She received a master’s degree in biology from the University of Oklahoma and a certificate in administration from Loyola and Xavier universities.

She entered the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of St. Mary, now known as the Dominican Sisters of Peace, in 1955.

She taught at St. Peter School in Reserve before joining Dominican, an all-girls Catholic high school, as a biology teacher in 1962. She later was named assistant principal and became principal in the early 1970s, holding the position until 1992.

McDonald loved being around her students, so much so she could often be found serving lunch to them in the cafeteria just to talk with them.

And they loved her.

“She was a delightful person,” said Sister Angeline Magro, who knew McDonald for six decades. “Very kind, very loving, very dedicated.”

Cynthia Thomas, who succeeded McDonald as principal, said she was “a very compassionate leader to her students and to the faculty. She cared deeply about people.”

Thomas, who was first hired as a teacher by McDonald, credited her with leading a school that excelled academically and prepared women to be leaders in their professions and in the community.

“Students were well-prepared when they left Dominican High School to go to college,” she said. “So much of what we ... have continued to build on was the outstanding school that Sister left us.”

McDonald was chosen as the school’s Alumna of the Year in 1991 and received the Heritage Award in 2001.

She is survived by two nieces and several grandnieces and grandnephews.

A wake will be held at 6 p.m. Friday at the Motherhouse, 580 Broadway, New Orleans.

A Mass will be said at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Rita Church, 2729 Lowerline St. Visitation at the church will begin at 9 a.m.

Burial will be in the Dominican Sisters of Peace Cemetery in Rosaryville, near Ponchatoula.