Berry community celebrates the life of Ouida Dickey

Mya Sedwick, Campus Carrier staff writer

Ouida Word Dickey, who dedicated over 72 years of her life to serving Berry, died on New Year’s Eve at age 91.

From 1956 to 1999 Dickey was employed by Berry College, first as a professor of English, then as the third faculty member of the business administration department. Eventually, Dickey became the first female faculty member at Berry to earn tenure. She also, after taking a course at the University of Indiana, brought the first computer to Berry. Dickey received numerous achievement awards during her time at Berry and was even presented with an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities which, to date, has never been awarded to any other Berry alumnus.

Dickey, among many other things, served as the president of Daughters of Berry for numerous terms and was a mentor to many others. She was considered the protector and preserver of Berry College history, having authored and co-authored a number of books about the institution. At the time of her passing Dickey was working on a book compiling the history of The Daughters of Berry. Her daughter, Angela, will complete the book in her mother’s absence.

Due to her more than 70 years of influence at Berry numerous people have memories of Dickey. Most of these stories revolve around her dedication to the staff, students and even grounds at Berry, which often resulted in tendencies towards perfectionism. Martin Cipollini, professor of biology, shared that in his run-ins with Dickey, she had to proofread everything that was sent out into the community to ensure that it was representing Berry to the best of its ability, meaning the writing was often returned to the author highly edited. Her perfectionism extended outward from writing into other aspects of her duties, like on graduation when she could be seen going up and down each row checking the stoles and robes of each person in line.

Dickey had a way with words, so much so that Dean of Psychology Jackie McDowell accepted her position at Berry before even meeting Dickey, her boss, in person. McDowell, spent time working under, and eventually with Dickey.

“I learned so much from her, about working with faculty and working with the community,” McDowell said.

A common theme underlying most stories that revolve around Dickey is the way that sharing a conversation with her made people feel. It was said that she never really forgot anything, names, faces to go with those names, where to place a comma and most especially what it meant to be a part of the Berry community. People went out of their way to speak to Dickey because they wanted to experience her kind words and sweet spirit.

One aspect of Dickey’s legacy that her dear friend Susan Brandy, a Berry graduate, wished to bring to light was the way Dickey helped other women. Whether through personal or professional means, Dickey was sure to encourage and promote her fellow females, but as with everything else, she did so with such a grace that no one, not even during her time, questioned what she was doing.

“She gave women an equal chance at least… that’s one of her defining characteristics, I think, at a time when it was necessary,” Brandy said.

With each decision she made, Dickey held Berry to its foundational visions. She not only upheld and embodied the motto of the head, the heart, and the hands, but she knew and understood the history behind it. With great poise and selflessness Dickey worked to build programs and hire people she felt would carry on all that Martha Berry had worked diligently to create. Her passion for the job and dedication to this institution has resulted in Dickey being remembered as the closest to our founder anyone has ever been, and likely ever will be.

“She already made such an impact on Berry that Berry is not lacking [in her absence],” Paul Deaton, cross country head coach said. “She’s leaving a legacy that won’t crumble.”

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