Obituary: Mary Elizabeth, 1955-2020 | Obituaries | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Obituary: Mary Elizabeth, 1955-2020

Passionate educator had friends around the world, from Delhi to Sydney

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Mary Elizabeth - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth’s passions were education and art. Growing up as the oldest of three in Evanston, Ill., she taught herself to play and compose music and became an avid writer of lyrics, poetry and prose. After graduating from the University of Chicago in 1977, she started a family and was a working mother to three children while also obtaining her master's degree in education from the University of Vermont.

Mary Elizabeth’s work credits were as many and varied as her talents and interests. She developed curricula at the Department of Education, webmastered for a nonprofit, and wrote textbook content on subjects ranging from algebra to Persian history. She made friends around the world as a beta tester for the music software Sibelius and aided them in developing a “worksheet creator” for use in music education. She also taught classes on the intersection between communication and technology at the Vermont College of Fine Arts and the University of Chicago Graham School. But her main focus, and greatest strength, was in creating educational products that “looked to re-imagine core educational content to give it novel appeal.” As an author, she published more than 20 books, including 14 literature guides, a five-book grammar series, and teaching guides to poetry and slang. Perhaps her proudest accomplishment was her work (with James Humberstone) on the children’s opera Kiravanu, which premiered in Sydney, Australia, in 2008. As a semester project for students at the all-girls MLC School, the opera operated as a tool for simultaneously teaching critical thinking, environmental science and Indigenous culture, in addition to theater and performance.

In September 2019, pancreatic cancer reared its ugly head. The disease had been doing its work in secret so that, by the time she was aware of it, her diagnosis was terminal. Yet she faced her sickness with aplomb, a fighting spirit and deep concern for others. Despite the rigors of cancer, chemotherapy and a pandemic, she made every effort to ease the challenges her children would face with her passing and to contact her many friends around the world, from Delhi to Sydney.

Mary Elizabeth passed away peacefully on July 20, 2020 at 64. She is survived by her children — Suzanne, Elizabeth and Michael Podhaizer — and her brother and sister.

If anyone has interest in her written or musical work, please contact voiceofthephoenixme@gmail.com.

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