URIs Hurricane Agnes to retire
after 50 years in the classroom
KINGSTON, R.I. -- April 22, 2003 -- After 45 years of teaching University of Rhode Island students with sweaty palms and rapid pulses how to communicate effectively, Agnes Doody will retire at the end of this semester.
To celebrate, her many friends, colleagues and former and current students are throwing a "Hurricane Agnes" party on May 31. The party is a fundraiser to add $50,000 or more to the Carrie G. and Daniel M. Doody Memorial Scholarship. Doody established the scholarship with $100,000 in 1997 to honor her late parents. Interest from the endowment is used by the Department of Communication Studies for student scholarships and faculty development.
"This will be no maudlin retirement party," promises Steve Wood, professor and chair of communication studies, noting that his department has given or pledged more than $17,000 toward the scholarship fund. "It will be wild, fun, and crazya true celebration of a brilliant teaching career."
Student evaluations of Doodys teaching have been consistently stellar, according to Wood. "Students absolutely love her as a teacher. She connects with them. She makes friends with everyone she meets," says Wood, noting the mailing list for the party exceeds 5,000 names. Favorite student memories of Doody are flooding in from an interactive webpage www.agnesdoody.com, created especially for the party and fundraiser.
"Among my fondest memories at URI was taking a speech class with Agnes Doody. Her enthusiasm to make a class come alive was contagious. I learned how to give an oral presentation with details I use to this day," wrote David Fischer, URI 87.
Robert Hokkanen, URI 60 fondly recalls sitting in one of Doodys Advanced Public Speaking classes during the late 50s as a Korean War vet.
Nikki Noya, URI 2000 said: "I had the privilege of being in your classroom from 1999 to 2000. I gave a report on Noya Enterprises, which at the time seemed like a dream. With encouragement from people like you Dr. Doody, I have made that dream into a reality. Thank you for being you, an incomparable spirit and force."
Doody came to URI in 1958 as director of Forensics, Department of Speech and Theatre, after teaching four years at Penn State and one year at the State University of New York, Geneseo. She founded and chaired the Department of Speech in 1967 with two courses. Renamed the Department of Communication Studies, the department now enrolls 778 students and is the largest undergraduate major at the University. Doody has taught classes in public speaking, debate, small group discussion, and history of public address, business communication, intercultural communication, and conflict resolution.
Breezily arriving at work in a convertible sports car whose license plate reads "TALK," Doody is an easily recognizable figure around campus known for colorful purple clothing and her blonde hair braided in a bun.
Doody is known for taking on presidents at the University of Rhode Island and at the White House. When she married Arthur Jeffrey in 1962, she was denied a merit raise. "Arthur is making enough for the two of you," President Fran Horn told her. "I went head to head with him on that," she recalls. "I won."
She admonished URI President Werner Baum to "listen to the students" who were protesting the Vietnam War. When President Richard Nixon called student protesters "bums" in 1970, she convinced the Faculty Senate to take out a full-page ad in The Providence Journal that read "Dear President Nixon: We Believe in our StudentsThey Are Not Bums!
"Actually, I got along with all of the University presidents. I dont carry a grudge. I got that from my father who taught me to say what you have to say and move on."
So what is Doody going to do after she retires? "Nothing scares my husband more than that question," she says with a laugh. Turning serious, she says she plans to travel and write her memoir of her many years in the classroom.
Anyone interested in attending "Hurricane Agnes" should contact chairman Wood at 401-874-4030 or visit the web cite: www.agnesdoody.com .
Anyone who cannot attend the festivities, but is interested in donating to the scholarship fund should call Tom Zorabedian, senior development officer for the College of Arts and Sciences, 401-874-2853 or firstname.lastname@example.org.