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Dr Dona Gower

1941 - 2013 Obituary Condolences Gallery
Dr Dona Gower Obituary
Gower, Dr. Dona Spawn Born to Pearl and Vance Carrell on September 10, 1941, in Dallas, Texas, Dona lived the first eight years of her life with her beloved maternal grandparents Dona and Sidney Miller in East Dallas, who provided her with a foundation of love that would serve her well throughout life's less halcyon days. After her mother's marriage to Benjamin Spawn, she went to live with Pearl, Ben, and her new baby sister Susie Spawn in 1949. Ben's military career took the family to several outposts, but Dallas became their permanent home. Upon graduating as class valedictorian from St. Edward's High School in 1960, Dona enrolled at The University of Dallas where she met life-long mentors Louise and Donald Cowan. After she graduated cum laude from UD in 1964, Dona was encouraged by the Cowans to pursue her Ph.D. at Vanderbilt University, their alma mater. Louise Cowan had been acquainted with Herschel Gower when they were both graduate students at Vanderbilt and made a call to him about the young Miss Spawn's impending arrival, asking him "to look after her." Look after her he did. Married on June 25, 1966, Dona and Herschel celebrated more than 46 years of marriage before her beloved Herschel's death at their home in Dallas on December 20 of 2012. The couple was the embodiment of poet John Donne's "two better hemispheres" and the two were each other's best teachers. Dona's professional career as a teacher spanned almost five decades. She was an English teacher at Harpeth Hall in Nashville, Tennessee, where she and co-conspirator Betty Marney created an English curriculum that still holds a reputation as one of the finest college preparatory curricula in the nation. Upon resigning from Harpeth Hall in 1985, Dona was invited by Sam McMurry, former headmistress at Harpeth Hall and then headmistress at The Hockaday School, to apply for an opening in Hockaday's English department. Dona did so, was appointed to the position and, with much support from Herschel and lots of kicking and screaming from their daughter Alison, moved the family to Dallas. Though she taught only one year at Hockaday, she left her mark by engendering a love of literature and learning among her students and by giving grammar tests that insured no girl would leave her class without knowing the power of the semi-colon and the horror of the comma splice. After her year at Hockaday, Dona was again influenced by Louise Cowan to change course when she invited Dona to take the helm of The Teachers' Academy at the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. Under Dona's decade-long guidance, The Teachers' Academy continued to develop programs of study of classic literature for teachers and administrators. Routinely, participants would leave these programs, not with worksheets or perfunctory lesson plans, but with minds transformed by the power of classic texts and a reinvigorated sense of purpose in their profession. Dona also fostered the relationship between the University of Dallas and the Teachers' Academy and was instrumental in courses taught at The Teachers' Academy which received graduate credit from the university. She read many a master's thesis in her years at the Dallas Institute and even arranged for one bright young man to use her office during off hours so that he could have a place of quiet away from his young family to finish his master's thesis. In 1996, Dona decided to rededicate herself to her work with teachers and established the Athena Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated primarily to the education of teachers. In her seventeen years as Executive Director of Athena, she persistently advocated for teachers and the dignity of teaching. With her small assembly of loyal faculty, she taught thousands of teachers free of charge at Saturday Symposia and Summer Colloquia. Always welcoming teachers with deep respect, humor, intelligence, food and hospitality, Dona and her colleagues offered teachers a retreat from the relentless pressures of work, as they engaged in the study of great works of literature in an open, revitalizing conversation. In conjunction with classes for teachers, Dona was the leader of the Athena Class, a group composed of community members, with whom she studied classic and contemporary texts, once again generating challenging reflection and lively conversation. Dona's belief in the teacher's power to transform lives by example and scholarship was at the heart of all her work at Athena and throughout her career. After a long, gallant battle with cancer, she died peacefully at her home in Dallas on November 18, 2013. Her daughter Alison and her "daughter-by-choice" Albina Hernandez were by her side as she took her last breath. In addition to her sisters Susie (Spawn) Neighbors of Clinton, AR, Mary Alice (Carrell) Lowry of Grand Prairie, TX, Ann (Carrell) Coker of Dallas, TX, and her brother-in-law Edwin Hudson Gower of Nashville, TN, she leaves behind legions of cousins, nieces, nephews, students, and friends who knew her noble work and were transmogrified by her wit and love of learning. The family is ever-grateful for the ministrations Dona received from many doctors at Baylor and UT Southwestern, especially Dr. Siobhan Kehoe who treated Dona with care, compassion, and an occasional, loving pinch on the cheek. Her death in the comfort of her own home would have been impossible without the sweet mercies and good cooking offered by Ophelia Savoy, Grace Raymond, Felicia Diallo, Sophie Toure, Florence Hounsou, Kelly Ray, Ann Vanderslice, and Chris Lietz. These women were more than care givers and nurses; they were family and brought great comfort to Dona in her final days. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that you make a donation to the charity or non-profit of your choice. A memorial Mass is scheduled for January 11th, 2014 at St. Monica's Catholic Church, 9933 Midway Rd. Dallas, TX. 75220 at 10:30 AM. Visit northdallasfuneralhome.com for updates.

Published in Dallas Morning News from Nov. 24 to Nov. 25, 2013
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