Phyllis A. Roth (1945 - 2012)

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Phyllis A. Roth Saratoga Springs, NY - Phyllis A. Roth, longtime resident of Saratoga Springs, died March 25, 2012, in Saratoga Hospital, of complications from pancreatic cancer. In her last days at the hospital, she was surrounded by loving family and friends. Born on Jan. 6, 1945, in New York City, Phyllis was the only child of Edward Roth, a lieutenant colonel in the Army, and Essie (Barbara) Stolz Roth, who taught in high school before the birth of her daughter. As the daughter of a career military man, Phyllis spent her childhood in Japan, the Philippines, Germany, and Indiana before moving back to the northeast for her high school years. Phyllis earned an A.B. degree cum laude in English at Clark University, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She earned master';s and doctoral degrees in English at the University of Connecticut. She was married to Tom Holmes from 1973 to1993, and they have a daughter, Ruth (Ruthie) Holmes of Los Angeles, CA. Phyllis had a long and distinguished career and held many positions of academic leadership. She began her career on the faculty of Northeastern University';s Department of English, then joined the Skidmore College community as an assistant professor of English in 1976. By 1985 she had achieved the rank of professor and was appointed chair of the department, a position she held for four years. In 1990, following a national search, Phyllis was named dean of the faculty and chief academic officer at Skidmore, joining the administrative team of President David Porter. Phyllis also served the college as both acting and interim president. She retired from Skidmore in 2010 after 34 years of devoted service. Phyllis was a dedicated teacher, an excellent scholar, and a superb administrator. She was a specialist in the writers Vladimir Nabokov and Bram Stoker, publishing well-regarded books and articles on both of them; she was also an expert on Jane Austen. As dean of the faculty, Phyllis understood the importance of communicating the value of a liberal arts education. Committed to strengthening the interdisciplinary nature of Skidmore';s curriculum, she collaborated with key trustees of the College to develop the Lubin Chair for Women in the Sciences and the Zankel Chair in Management for Liberal Arts Students. Phyllis was deeply involved in the development of the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, helping to define its mission and identity. She had a role in the selection of Antoine Predock as the museum';s architect and worked closely with him on decisions about the site and shape of the building to ensure its location at the center of the College';s academic and cocurricular lives. Tisch Family Distinguished Professor David Porter, who is also Skidmore';s president emeritus, in recognizing Phyllis';s accomplishments upon her retirement in 2010, declared that “Skidmore College was blessed to have Phyllis Roth for 10 years as its dean of faculty.” After stepping down from the dean';s office, Phyllis returned to the classroom, where students again were her top priority. She relished Skidmore';s collaborative research programs, which she firmly believed represented a distinctively Skidmore experience. She incorporated the special collections of Lucy Scribner Library in her course work, tasking students with assignments to develop exhibitions using rare books. Most notable among these efforts were library exhibitions that showcased a gift from alumnus Christopher Giancarlo ';81, who donated a collection of vampire books and materials in her name. Phyllis delighted in the vampire collection, which was featured in exhibitions held in 2001 and 2005. Phyllis received a number of awards and honors, including a Mellon Faculty Development Grant for study at the School of Criticism and Theory at the University of California at Irvine; a Mellon Grant for Critical Essays on Vladimir Nabokov; and an ASE grant from Skidmore for work in Bath, England, on Jane Austen. She was named an honorary alumna of Skidmore in 1999 and designated a Woman of Distinction by the Girl Scouts, Adirondack Council, in 2005. She received a Skidmore President';s Award in 2002, and in 2010 she received the Distinguished Faculty Service Award. She proudly served as a member of the board of trustees of the Emma Willard School and was a co-director of Saratoga Reads. Phyllis took great pleasure in her friends and her family. She enjoyed conversations over long lunches and glasses of wine, and she was always eager to travel. She liked to read, to cook, to garden, and to attend concerts of almost any kind. She made annual trips to Maine, often with her daughter, where she loved to eat lobster, hunt for mussels, and kayak. She was enormously devoted to, and proud of, her daughter and was thrilled to make a trip to Los Angeles in the last weeks of her life to help Ruthie settle into a new apartment and to see her perform in various theatrical productions. Phyllis Roth has been a powerful presence in the lives of colleagues, students, friends, and family. She has touched the lives of so many, and she has made a difference in so many ways. She will be deeply missed. A memorial service to celebrate the life of Phyllis Roth will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 5, 2012, in Gannett Auditorium, Palamountain Hall, at Skidmore. Burial will be private at the convenience of the family. Upon her retirement in 2010, her friends and colleagues at Skidmore established the Phyllis A. Roth Retiree Initiative Fund “in grateful recognition of her extraordinary contributions to Skidmore” and to promote continuing vital relations between the college and its retirees. Contributions in Phyllis';s memory may be made to the Phyllis A. Roth Retiree Initiative Fund c/o the Office of Advancement at Skidmore College, 815 North Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866. The family and friends of Phyllis would like to thank Dr. David Mastrianni and Dr. Marianne Mustafa for their devoted care of her, and to express express their gratitude to the wonderful nurses of the 3rd floor of Saratoga Hospital and the compassionate staff of Saratoga Community Hospice. Arrangements are under the direction of the William J. Burke & Sons/Bussing & Cunniff Funeral Homes of 628 North Broadway, Saratoga Springs (584-5373). Online remembrances may be made at www.burkefuneralhome.com.

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Published in The Saratogian on Mar. 30, 2012
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