Last July, one of the students whose doctoral dissertation I directed (and who had lined up a university position) was shot by her ex-husband. She had three children, and worked fulltime at a high school and community college to support her family while she completed her doctorate.
I've worked on my campus to set up a memorial endowment fund in her name, to provide support for single mothers doing graduate work in our department in the future.
If you are interested in her story and might consider donating, information is behind the cut.
Stella Ray was a member of Literature and Languages at A&M-Commerce for fifteen years. She began her undergraduate work while carrying her oldest son who then attended her doctoral graduation in December 2010. Her family and friends, however, had been calling her "Doc" since she was four years old and came home from kindergarten to announce to them all that was was a Doctor!
During her time with Literature and Languages, she worked in the Communication Skills Center with Basic Writing students and then as a tutor, and eventually as an assistant for faculty teaching the Children's Literature courses.
Stella moved on to teach first year Composition and our Introduction to Literature course. She then taught at the high school and community college level, including dual-credit courses, while pursuing her doctorate degree and raising her three children.
Stella's scholarly interests were primarily in children's and British literature. Her doctoral dissertation was originally planned as an analysis of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings from the perspective of children's/YA literature. But the more she researched the text and developed her work, the more she was drawn to a gender analysis focusing on four key characters from The Silmarillion as well as The Lord of the Rings: Ungoliant, Shelob, Galadriel, and Varda.
These female characters are all spiritual powers, including one of the Valar (Varda), the planetary deities of Middle-earth; Elven (Galadriel, who appears in both texts), and evil spirits who took the form of spiders (Ungoliant and Shelob). While there is a growing amount of gender scholarship on the female characters in The Lord of the Rings, little has been done with characters in other volumes of Tolkien's Legendarium. Stella's work is an original and important contribution to Tolkien Studies.
Stella's dissertation was completed and defended in Fall 2010; she then began a university-level job search, and was hired at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas. The administration there was so impressed with her interview that the Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Ernest Plata contacted the Department to compliment us on graduating such a fine professional.
Tragically, her plans were cut short in July when she when she was killed by her ex-husband. A benefit account for her children has been established at Alliance Bank in Greenville, Texas, and Dr. Robin Anne Reid plans to develop Stella's dissertation for publication under her name, with royalties earned going to Stella's children.
Knowing how the need to work fulltime to support her family affected her progress toward her final degree, The Department of Literature and Languages has decided to establish an endowed scholarship in memory of Dr. Stella Ray.
In the next five years, we will need to collect $10,000 for the endowment to be large enough to support an annual scholarship. The Stella Ray Memorial Endowment will generate at least one scholarship to support a single mother doing graduate work in English. The donations are tax deductible, and can be sent either by postal mail or via an online form.
To mail your gift, please send it to:
P.O. BOX 3425
Commerce, TX 75429
Please make the checks out to the A&M-Commerce Foundation, but write "Stella Ray" on the memo line of the check to make sure it is deposited in the correct account.
It is possible to donate online, but because the university is rebuilding the online gift page, it will take some time for the Stella Ray accont to be listed on that page. However, it is possible to donate to the memorial endowment in her memory.
Access the online gift from by following the link below:
Under gift designation options select Endowment/Excellence Fund.
In the drop down choose Arts & Sciences
In the second drop down choose Literature & Languages Excellence Fund
Under the Optional Designations heading indicate that the gift is in memory of Dr. Stella Ray.
We have lost Stella from our Fellowship, but we will keep her memory green through this endowment, and the gifts in her memory to help single mothers with their education.
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