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A Tribute to Late Siena Heights Faculty Member Dr. Martha Carroll

Dr. Martha Carroll
Dr. Martha Carroll

Editor’s Note: The following edited tribute to late SHU faculty member Dr. Martha Carroll was given by SHU Vice President of Academic Affairs Sister Sharon Weber at Martha’s funeral on July 15, 2012.

Martha asked me to say something about her that would make you laugh. On the other hand, she used to tell me that she had to explain my sense of humor to others—so I am not sure that there is much hope that I can fulfill her wishes.

But let me begin by telling you the story of the little first or second grader that reported on his Bible school class. They had been told the story of Jesus visiting Lazarus and Martha and Mary. Martha as you will recall complained that Mary was not helping her with the hostess work. The youngster reported that Jesus replied, “Martha, Martha, you’re too fussy.”

Now I think most of us would agree that we don’t normally think of Martha Carroll as “Fussy.” For example, we would hardly think of her as especially “fussy” about the professional football team she chose to support.

However, when it came to the causes about which she was passionate, she could be very “fussy.” And she was passionate about helping individuals with special needs. When she agreed to develop a special education program for Siena Heights in 2006, she worked to provide the best courses and experiences the potential teachers could have to serve the needs of their future students, including the collaboration skills to work with administrators, faculty, and families. She undertook this project after retiring from the University of Toledo. So she put an enormous amount of energy into planning curriculum and writing course syllabi as well as learning the requirements of a different state Department of Education. She traveled to Lansing; she met with state officials; she listened carefully; she explained tirelessly; she got it done four times for the program at Siena Heights, for both the graduate and the undergraduate programs in learning disabilities and cognitive impairment.

Martha’s passion led her to be a crusader for making buildings and all learning experiences accessible to individuals with special needs. She encouraged all of us to do exercises that would help us understand the challenges that exist in so many ways and in so many places. She would invite us, or cajole us, or nag at us until we would walk with her to see and understand the problems. When she agreed to come on board at Siena to develop the special education program, she did so on one condition—that she not have to be a member of any committee. After all, retirement had to have some rewards. However, she later asked to be placed on the campus master planning committee so she could advocate for the cause of accessibility—so she could be fussy about how we arranged new buildings for the sake of the people who would inhabit them. I would say that asking to sit on a committee is about as passionate as you can get.

Martha was also passionate about her college students, for they would eventually serve those individuals with special needs. She spent hours advising, listening, teaching, and providing supplementary materials for them—including feeding her students real barbecue imported from Carolina. … She was also an undying advocate for her students.

Martha accomplished the goals about which she was passionate based on a strategy of collaboration and she was very good at it. She was clear about her goals and she respected the motivation of all involved to want the best in the situation. Martha got things done and she knew it.

During this past year, she dealt with a time when she began to feel better but was unsure about whether or not she was accomplishing what God was calling her to do. We talked and prayed a little about that. I think Martha recognized that it was a time to give God control and she did that. I hope that she now knows that she was still teaching—teaching all of us who would heed how to die gracefully.

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