I just found out that Dr. Elizabeth Deanne Malpass, professor of History at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches passed away earlier this year. This is personal for me, because in 1978 I entered the university as an undergrad, and after the first semester changed from Journalism to History as a major. There were three professors who left an indelible mark on me for the four years I attended the University. One was Dr. John Dahmus (Medieval History), Dr. Nichols (American Civil War history (my grandfather had taught him history during the Thirties)), and Dr. Malpass. She taught British History, Viking History, and others. I never missed one of her classes during the semesters I attended the University. She was a small lady, probably not much more than 5'2", who always smelled of the same rosewater perfume. She was an impressively hard grader, and you really had to impress her to attain a "B" in one of her classes, and to get an "A" you had to do something special. I managed both feats somehow. To this day, I sometimes wake in a cold sweat recalling one of her final examinations. I still remember the question I chose: "Describe the Roman Occupation of Britain from 55BC to 410 AD, and the effect it had on modern Britain- Be specific". I wrote for two hours, wearing out my hand, and had only gotten to 400AD when she called "Stop". I managed a "B" in the course. I still have my text books 40 years later, and still refer to them.
Dr. Malpass was dedicated to education, she got a law degree in addition to her Ph.D, and she kept on teaching till the very end. When my oldest daughter started at Stephen F. Austin, to my very great astonishment, and delight, I found that Dr. Malpass was still teaching. My daughter was able to learn form this wonderful educator, and magnificent human being. She acted as a mentor and confidant to my daughter while she was there, and when I drove up for visits, it always included a visit with Dr. Malpass. She had slowed down a bit, but was the still formidable professor she had been when I was there. Who can forget her Viking course where the final examination was "search and seizure". She handed out the 100 question test at the very beginning of the semester, and you had all semester to find the answers. She expected chapter, page, and footnotes. No compromises were accepted. Generally she had a drop rate of 25% percent, but those of us who stayed, well we LEARNED! We were taught how to find information, how to put it together, and we were taught How to think, not what to think, but How. She inspired everyone of us to do our best, and she would not accept any less from her students. As with many things I lost contact with her, but she will always burn brightly in my memory, and she will also always be remembered by all of us who took her classes.
I remember one conversation I had with her when my oldest was there, and she was decrying the new students lack of preparation, their lack of critical thinking skills, their poor preparation for life, their over dependence on electronics to get answers. She automatically dropped a students grade if they referenced Wikipedia. She said that the new generation of students could not go to the library and research things, that she spent the first part of the semester catching them up to college level. She said that she had one student who did not know what the "Papacy" was, and when told that it was regarding the Popes, the student was dumbfounded. She loved animals, wished desperately that she had been born British, and when over the Christmas break in 1979-1980 she took a bunch of us to London for two weeks, she developed a Downton Abbey accent. She was a great human being, and my greatest professor. I miss her. Future generations of students will also miss what she could teach. She brought history ALIVE!
Dr. Elizabeth Deanne Malpass
March 11, 2019
Dr. Elizabeth Deanne Malpass passed away on March 11 in Nacogdoches. She was born February 23, 1938, in Jacksonville, Florida, the only child of Alton T. Malpass and Rosemary Harlan Malpass. She grew up in Norfolk, Virginia, where her father worked as an architect. Education was the driving force in Deanne’s life. She attended the Norfolk Division of the College of William and Mary, where she received a bachelor’s degree in history and English literature in 1960. During those years, she worked part time as a reporter for Norfolk Newspapers, Inc., and continued fulltime as a reporter for another year after receiving her degree. In 1961, she received a teaching assistantship from the University of Miami, in Florida, earning her Master of Arts degree in American history in 1963. After continuing there for a year as an instructor, she once again interrupted her academic career by working almost two years as a stewardess for United Airlines, operating out of O’Hare Field in Chicago. She resumed academics in 1965 when she attended Texas Christian University in Ft. Worth to pursue doctoral studies in history, which she completed in 1969. While working on her dissertation, she did research at the London School of Economics, Britain’s Public Records Office, and the United Nations Library in Geneva, Switzerland. After receiving her Ph.D., Deanne came to Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches in 1969. Her specialties included Viking history and British diplomatic history between the world wars. During her multiple terms on the Faculty Senate, she played an active role in enriching the life of the university. For example, she helped bring one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta to SFA in 1984 and helped arrange former president Jimmy Carter’s visit to the campus in 1989. A mainstay of the SFA History Department, Dr. Malpass held her students, her colleagues, and herself to the highest academic, ethical, and professional standards. She worked after hours with students who needed help and cultivated the intellectual curiosity of those who were gifted. She was still teaching at age 80, when she fell while on campus, causing the injury from which she died a few weeks later. Deanne was compassionate and generous. In her younger years, while teaching full time, she managed to commute to Houston to earn a law degree so she could conduct free legal work for those without means to pay. Later she paid college expenses for several students and befriended her housekeepers and their children, who became close companions. She treated one to a trip to the Rose Bowl, when her son was playing in the marching band, and later to a trip to Paris. An animal lover, she took in stray dogs and cats and served on the board of St. Francis Rescue Nacogdoches from 2007 to 2019. She was also stylish and eccentric. Her home, always a work in progress, evolved into a small museum of art and fine furniture, but without a kitchen stove. She seldom locked her doors. Her gardens too evolved through the years into a fanciful collection of arbors, pottery, statues, fountains, and plants. She also traveled extensively and often. According to her good friend, Tommie Jan Lowery, Deanne felt as much at home in both Paris and London as she did in Nacogdoches. In fact, she drove all over England on the “wrong” side of the road. Elizabeth Deanne Malpass was a memorable person. Her loss leaves a void in the lives of her many students and friends, most notably Maria Moreno, Damian Moreno, Alma Covarrubias, Marion Hughes and Gwendolyn Hughes. A reception will be held in her honor at 2:30pm on Thursday, March 28, in Liberal Arts North, room 142, on the SFA campus. The Malpass family is being served by Laird Funeral Home. To convey condolences or to sign an online register, please visit www.lairdfh.net.