SOMERS — A pioneering professor at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, whose legacy is honored through a prestigious annual teaching award, has died, university officials announced Friday morning.

Stella C. Gray, emeritus professor of English, died Tuesday in Newcastle, Maine, at the age of 96, the university announced.

According to an announcement sent Friday to Parkside faculty, Gray joined the faculty of the former UW-Kenosha in 1958. When UW-Parkside was founded in 1968 through the merging of UW-Kenosha and UW-Racine, Gray served as the first chair of the Humanities Division in the College of Science and Society.

According to a UW-Parkside media release at the time of her retirement in 1984, Gray was among the first Parkside faculty members to be honored for teaching excellence. She was selected by UW-Parkside students to receive the Standard Dil Foundation Award for excellence in classroom teaching.

In recognition of her service to the university, the Stella C. Gray Teaching Excellence Award has honored UW-Parkside faculty members for more than 30 years, the university said in a release.

According to Gray’s obituary in the Boothbay (Maine) Register, Gray taught a year in 1948 at Westhampton in Richmond, Va., before being awarded a full scholarship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to study for her Ph.D. in American literature. Gray’s dissertation on Constance Fenimore Woolson was the first comprehensive study of the 19th century American author.

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Settling in Wisconsin

In Madison, Gray met her husband, Charles F. Gray, a Kenosha native, who was studying on the G.I. Bill. They married in 1953, and had two of their four children, Camilla and Clifford.

In 1959, the family moved to Kenosha, where the Grays had two more children, Robert and Peter. The family attended St. Thomas Aquinas Church, where Gray was the first female lay reader at Mass.

While at UW-Kenosha, Gray was instrumental in helping to develop the extension into the four-year institution, which became UW-Parkside.

During her time at Parkside, Gray taught English composition, speech, and literature. According to her obituary, many students remember Gray’s readings of literature during class. She also inspired many of her pupils to become teachers.

In lieu of flowers, Gray’s family requests that memorial donations in Gray’s name be made to the Boothbay Region YMCA, P.O. Box 500, Boothbay Harbor, ME 04538.

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