North American Scholar

BERRY, Lillian Gay

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  • Date of Birth (YYYY-MM-DD): 1872-07-14
  • Born City: Wabash
  • Born State/Country: IN
  • Parents: Thomas Jefferson & Mary Margaret Bowers B.
  • Date of Death (YYYY-MM-DD): 1962-06-01
  • Death City: Bloomington
  • Death State/Country: IN
  • Education:

    A.B. Indiana U., 1899; A.M., 1905; fell, class. U. Chicago, 1905-7; study in Rome, 1907, 1926, 1930.

  • Professional Experience:

    Tchr. English Monticello (IN) HS; Germ. & Lat. Huntington (IN) HS, 1895-9; Manual Training HS (Indianapolis), 1899-1902; instr. to prof. Lat. Indiana U., 1902-43; head Lat. & Gk. dept., 1942-3; pres. CAMWS, 1931-2.

  • Publications:

    The Americanization of America (Bloomington, 1919); "A Fifteenth-Century Guide to Latin Conversation for University Students," CJ 23 (1927-8) 520-30; Latin: Second Year, with Josephine L. Lee (New York, 1930).

  • Notes:

    Lillian Gay Berry taught for over 40 years at IU, where she was the first woman to be promoted to full professor and was known for special qualities of kindness and humanity. Born on a farm, she claimed to have decided upon her teaching career on her first day in school. Her rural school taught only eight grades, so she taught herself and became a schoolmistress while still a teenager. She attended Indiana State Normal College in the spring and summer, after teaching in the fall and winter. After entering IU, she continued her high-school teaching. Once on the faculty at IU she made Latin and Greek exciting and important for students. She also wrote an important textbook from which she taught her most popular classes and whose royalties she donated to an IU scholarship fund. Her special love was traveling, not only to ancient lands, but also to Alaska, South America, and Hawaii. Her recounting of anecdotes from her many trips to the Mediterranean enlivened and enlarged her lectures on ancient life.She was particularly sympathetic to students who were attempting to rise from humble origins as she had. She would regularly house female students in her own home and help out male students with invitations to meals and with gifts of clothing and money, all doled out with motherly affection. She maintained contact with them long after they had graduated and served as a self-appointed and highly effective placement officer, finding them jobs commensurate with their talents and taking special pleasure in their success. In 1955, IU recognized her with its Distinguished Alumni Award.

  • Sources:

    DAS 1951:69; Indiana University Archives; Verne B. Schuman, "Lillian Gay Berry, Teacher of Latin, Lover of Learning," The Review 5,3 (May 1963) 25—8; WhAm 5:57.

  • Author: Ward W. Briggs, Jr.