Judith Wilkie Fowler, 79, passed away at 7:50pm on Monday, June 15th 2020 at the Fox Hollow assisted living facility in Pinehurst, NC. She had battled against the slow progression of dementia for more than a decade before succumbing to complications while in hospice care.
Judy, known to her students as Dr. Fowler, was a dedicated teacher throughout her career, inspiring professional colleagues via her tireless dedication in helping students with writing in and outside of class. A wordsmith of the highest grade, her unabashed use of English vocabulary gave her a distinctive air of elegance and a clear advantage in any Scrabble match. Even as she deteriorated in later years, she held on to (she would use embosomed) her vocabulary as a way to orient herself, using a specific word in different yet articulate ways for weeks before its meaning permanently vanished from her mind.
Judy is survived by her son Nathaniel Fowler, wife Giovanna Munari, and grandson Nero Munari of Berlin, Germany; and sister, Fynne Wilkie Fowler and husband Harold W. Fowler of Morganton, North Carolina. She was preceded in death by her husband Robert Lewis Fowler, mother Marguerite (Smitty) Smith Wilkie, father Gordon (Smiley) W. Wilkie, and brother Stephen Patrick Wilkie.
Born in December of 1940, Judy was born and raised in Sanford, NC and graduated from Sanford Central High in 1958. During her undergraduate studies at the Women’s College of North Carolina in Greensboro (now UNC-G,) she met her future husband while working a summer job at Lee Drug in Sanford, where he came for a ham sandwich and their eyes locked through the pie case. The two married in a small ceremony in Maryland during Easter weekend of 1962, just before her graduation. After receiving her degree they settled in Ellicott City, Maryland and she began teaching History and later English in several Baltimore County high schools including Lansdowne, Millford Mill, and Randallstown HS.
Her husband’s professional obligations took them to Shiraz, Iran in 1975 where she had many memorable experiences over the course of their two and a half year stay, including the birth of her son, Nat. Her long stay in Iran nourished a love for language where she studied Farsi and French, expanding her empathy for other cultures and her sense of style as well.
Upon returning to Maryland she continued her linguistic interests, teaching herself French and pivoting to an English curriculum in her career with an interest in compositional studies, eventually obtaining a position at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) in the English Department in 1989.
Not content to only teach classes, Judy was well aware of many students’ struggle with language, be it from economic or cultural disadvantages, and began to lay the foundation for a program at UMBC that could act as an integrated tutoring program for writing. What became the Writing Center, now fully coordinated via UMBC’s Learning Resource Center (LRC) with curriculum and tutoring and a newly expanded location at the Albin O. Kuhn Library, is where her post became full-time as Writing Coordinator; a shared position between the English Department and the LRC that remains until this day. There she trained tutors and went above and beyond what was expected to assist students, showing associates how to help students write without doing the work for them.
To the inspiration of many of her colleagues at UMBC, Judy concurrently worked towards a PhD at the University of Maryland College Park and was professionally active in academic organizations such as the National Council of English Teachers (NCTE,) giving a talk in Bordeaux, France in 1998 at the Third International Conference on Global Conversations on Language and Literacy, and participated in other conferences like the Conference on College Composition & Communication (CCCC,) all during her time as Writing Coordinator, earning her doctorate in Rhetoric and Composition Studies in 1996. In 2000 she relocated to Sanford with her retired husband, first teaching at NC State and then in 2002 at Fayetteville State University as Assistant Professor and Writing Center Director. She loved her time at Fayetteville State, often remarking how the students were the most motivated of her entire career.
With the return to her home town, her husband’s ongoing battle with multiple cancers and complications due to severe diabetes displayed her dedication to caring for him until his death in 2007.
As a widow she remained strong and independent, and will be remembered just as much for her non sequitors and intellectual puns as for her love of “colorful non-classical objects.” On any given day she could be seen tending garden among plastic pink flamingos, walking her french poodles Orange and Canneberge, and joining a conversation with “Allow me to interject..” as she dusted her collections of bright Fiesta ware, Oaxaca animal carvings, and steered her dogs clear of messing up her prized genuine Persian rugs.
Due to current world events, a private memorial service will be held at a later date. Interested parties should contact the family for details.
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