Founding member of Wright State English department dies at age 80

Photograph from Wright State website.

Dr. Cecile Williamson Cary, a founding member of Wright State English department, died on Sunday, Nov. 25 at Miami Valley Hospital. She was 80 years old. She is survived by sons Theodore, of Philadelphia, and Stephen and Matthew, both of Dayton, according to her obituary.

Cary taught a wide range of courses at Wright State, including business writing and composition and graduate seminars, said Alpana Sharma, chair of the English department at Wright State. “To the end, Cecile kept her ties to the department alive, always concerned about its welfare and its progress,” Sharma said.

Carol Loranger, an associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and former English chair, remembers Cary’s dedication inside and outside the classroom. “Between 1964 and 1969, she finished her dissertation and defended it, got her Ph.D. and had three kids while she was teaching full time,” she said.

In 1967, Cary started teaching at Wright State. Coincidentally, that was the year that WSU became an independent university, cutting its ties to The Ohio State University and Miami University. When Wright State became an independent school, many of today’s existing departments did not exist. That is where Cary stepped in.

Cary was one of the handful of faculty members that put in place the standards for the English department as they are known today. “They put in place all the structures,” Loranger said, “both academic and interpersonal.”

In 1969, Cary became an Assistant Professor. Three years later, she was promoted to the rank of Associate Professor. Her work focused primarily on Renaissance literature, especially 16th and 17th century drama and poetry, according to Sharma.

Photograph provided by Carol Loranger.

On two occasions, Cary co-chaired the annual Ohio Shakespeare conference, which she managed to bring to Wright State in the 1990s – this was no small undertaking, according to Loranger.

Cary retired from Wright State in 1999. In 2014, Cary and her husband, the late Norman Cary, established the Norman and Cecile Cary Endowed Scholarship for English majors at Wright State with an interest in English, American or Anglophone Literature, according to the College of Liberal Arts’ website.

After retirement, Cary remained active and engaged with her community. She was involved in volunteer activities including teaching at the University of Dayton, working at a local food pantry and delivering flowers to patients at Good Samaritan Hospital, according to her obituary. Cecile was also a founding member of Dayton Bibliophiles book club.

“The English department is forever indebted to her for her endowed scholarship for English majors interested in English, American or Anglophone Literature, the Norman and Cecile Cary Endowed Scholarship,” Sharma said.