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Dorothy Lee Lewis Ivey

January 25, 1922 –
 February 25, 2023


Dorothy Lee Lewis Ivey, whose work as a teacher inspired thousands of students to love literature, language and writing, died of aortic valve failure in the early morning hours of Saturday, February 25, 2023, after five weeks in home hospice care in Dallas, Texas.  She celebrated her 101st  birthday just one month earlier.

Her husband of 73 years, Dr. Nathan Ivey, was at her bedside the night before, and she was surrounded by her children, grandchildren and a great grandson.

A memorial service and interment of ashes will be held on May 20, 2023, at 3:00 p.m., Christ United Methodist Church in Plano, Texas.

Mrs. Ivey was a part of the large group of young women who entered college in the 1940s after World War II and became life-long educators — strenghthening the public schools in America.  Her college sweetheart, Dr. Ivey, age 95, shared her passion and served as president of four public colleges in Colorado, Michigan and Illinois. Mrs. Ivey taught English, Latin, and journalism in high schools in small towns and suburban cities. Together, their seven-decade partnership won them many admirers among students, colleagues and leaders involved in education.

Born in Fort Worth during a January icestorm in 1922, Mrs. Ivey was the daughter of Rev. Grover C. Lewis, a Baptist minister and Lee Ann Branaman Lewis, a church organist.

Mrs. Ivey played the piano, taught Sunday school, and spent most of her life as a United Methodist, faithful to the Wesleyan principles of nurturing a community through service, especially to those with the greatest need.

During the 60s and 70s, the Ivey family home was frequently a source of food, shelter and even safety for friends of the couple’s three children. In an interview in 2022, Mrs. Ivey admitted that most people don’t know “the depth of how I shared the sorrows” of some of the students who had problems in their families.

On occasions, high school students and friends of the Ivey children found refuge and support they needed during difficult times. “Some of those problems I couldn’t talk about” because of confidentiality, said Mrs. Ivey.

More than fifty years later, one former student in southern Illinois posted on social media that Mrs. Ivey “taught me and many others about life after school.” Another former student  wrote: “I hope I can be as kind, principled and curious as she always was.”  A former student in suburban Chicago: “My all time favorite teacher – intelligent, witty, caring, graceful. The world lost one of its best today.”

In 1946 at Hardin-Simmons University, Dorothy Lewis met Nathan Ivey in a college English class.  The young couple’s friendship grew into a romance when Dorothy worked on the college yearbook staff with Nathan as the managing editor. Both earned undergraduate degrees from the Abilene, Texas-based university. Mrs. Ivey also earned a master’s degree from Western Colorado University in Gunnison. Her husband earned a doctorate from Michigan State University, East Lansing.

Over a 35-year career, Mrs. Ivey taught in ten public high schools across four states. In 1965, she taught Latin to a class of students in Colorado by telephone from her new classroom in Michigan, when the small town of Rangely couldn’t find another Latin teacher. The unusual arrangement attracted national media attention.

During the 60s, Dr. Ivey became the founding president of Southwestern Michigan College in Dowagiac and John A. Logan College in Carterville, Illinois.  Mrs. Ivey’s husband was also president of Colorado Northwestern Community College in Rangely and South Suburban College in South Holland, Illinois.

In 2022 during a large 100th birthday celebration, Mrs. Ivey commented that she and her husband had a good partnership. “Some of our happiest times were when we had these struggles in building things” such as a new community college. “It was a family legacy that we left. The children came along and made a name for themselves in all of these communities.”

Her survivors include her husband and the three children: Judith Ivey, film, stage and television actress, and husband, Tim Braine of Nantucket, Massachusetts; James Paul Ivey, a retired university professor of theatre and wife, Emily Jennings Ivey of Santa Fe, New Mexico; Sara Ivey, retired journalist, and husband, Xin-Min Zhang of Dallas. Daughter Sara and her husband were Mrs. Ivey’s home hospice caregivers.

Other survivors: five grandchildren — Nathan Piller and wife, Morgan Harrison of Dallas; Martin Piller of Dallas; Margaret Braine and husband, Zachary Ellis of Brooklyn, New York; Thomas Braine of Livermore, California; and Donnelle and husband, Chad Yungerberg of Seattle, Washington.

A fourth generation survives — Ajeo James (A.J.) Piller, son of grandson Martin Piller.

For more about Mrs. Ivey, watch a tribute video from her 100th birthday celebration:


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