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Emeritus professor of education Martha Fowlkes dies

by Sherry Fisher- March 30, 2009


Martha Fowlkes, emeritus professor of education, died March 17 in Worcester, Mass. She was 68.

Fowlkes came to UConn in 1986, serving as dean of the School of Family Studies until 1993. She was a professor of educational leadership in the School of Education from 1993 to 1998.

Her major areas of scholarly interest included women and education; race, class, and education; school and community; and society and sexuality, intimacy, and emotions.

“Martha Fowlkes was a dedicated professional who was deeply committed to women’s rights,” says Steven Wisensale, professor of human development and family studies. “She was particularly supportive of junior faculty throughout her tenure as dean of family studies.”

Jane Goldman, associate professor of human development and family studies, says, “Martha was very committed to and an advocate for the well being of women and children.”

She says Fowlkes was instrumental in the expansion of the Child Development Laboratories to include a new infant center.

Mary Galante-DeAngelis, a lecturer in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, took a course about women and work with Fowlkes in the 1980s.

“She was a strong, brilliant woman,” says Galante-DeAngelis.

“Dr. Fowlkes had a wonderful gift for engaging students with divergent opinions in discussions by asking deceptively simple questions that would lead us to unravel much more complex thoughts and emotions about the subject at hand.

“The point of each discussion was to be challenged by our peers and the readings, and to learn to think about the topic in new ways that would either change or strengthen our own positions,” she adds.

“I try to use this technique with my own students.”

Fowlkes graduated from Smith College in 1961. She earned her master’s degree in anthropology from the London School of Economics, and her Ph.D. in sociology from UMass-Amherst in 1976. She taught in the sociology department of Smith College for many years, and served as dean of student affairs at Smith.

Fowlkes co-founded the first Memphis, Tenn. chapter of the National Organization for Women in 1969.

An avid reader and gardener, she also enjoyed bird watching and traveling.

She is survived by four daughters and their spouses: Lisa and Stuart Pollack; Anne Bladen and Jill Barton; Abigail Fowlkes; and Maggie Fowlkes and Jon Shirland. She also leaves three grandchildren.

Services will be private. In lieu of flowers or donations, Fowlkes’ daughters request that friends perform a good deed for someone in need.

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