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Saint Mary’s professor of economics dies

| Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Professor of business and economics Jerome “Jerry” L. McElroy, who taught at Saint Mary’s for 32 years, died Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014. He was 77 years old.

McElroy was deeply invested in the life of the community at Saint Mary’s, vice president for college relations Shari Rodriguez said. When asked what he wanted to tell his colleagues and students, McElroy said, “Tell them I love them.”

Rodriguez said students, alumnae and faculty loved McElroy right back, as expressed by College President Carol Ann Mooney.

“Jerry was the consummate Saint Mary’s faculty member. A man of deep faith, this was not a job for Jerry, but a true vocation,” Mooney said. “He loved his students and colleagues and often demonstrated that love by sharing his beautiful poems with us. None of us will ever forget his warm smile and the countless contributions he made to generations of Saint Mary’s women.”

McElroy began teaching at Saint Mary’s in the fall of 1982, and continued to teach through the fall 2014 semester. Jerry was honored with two faculty awards recognizing his excellence in teaching, the Maria Pieta Award in 1989 and the Spes Unica Award in 1997, Rodriguez said.

McElroy was also a poet. He hosted annual readings at the College on themes of nature, the supernatural world, childhood on his grandfather’s farm and meditations on themes of grace. Most recently, McElroy offered a reading in October 2014 from his latest published chapbook, “Hidden Graces,” which was published by Finishing Line Press.

At the reading, professor emeritus of religious studies Keith Egan introduced McElroy, stating that in McElroy’s lifetime, he has published more than 140 poems, published or co-published 17 books and monographs and produced nearly 142 scholarly papers, which resulted from McElroy’s research into the economies of the islands of the Caribbean.

Beyond his admirable accomplishments, McElroy influenced many in the College’s community on a personal level, as shown by the hundreds of letters, notes and e-mails received by his wife of 43 years, Birdie Maria Rossow McElroy.

“Each of those who wrote or called felt he [McElroy] knew them well, and they him,” Birdie McElroy said. “He was a spirit that transcended mere cursory knowledge: as one former student said, ‘He saw us.’ That is a rare gift and one that flowed naturally from Jerry, from a large heart, sharp mind, all encased in a soft demeanor and humor that delighted.”

Birdie McElroy said although her husband’s five books of published poetry that contain some of her own artwork may not have eclipsed his economic research, his poetry helps distinguish McElroy as a true “Renaissance Man.”

“His gift to me as my husband was an abiding love, a kindness that enveloped me, a support for my every endeavor and surely the greatest gift from one human being to another; the gift of knowing me deeply and accepting everything I am,” Birdie McElroy said.

Close friend and colleague Richard Measell, who is the chair of the department of business and economics, said that besides being a true family man, McElroy was also a professional and reliable professor, who always sought excellence but not perfection, and handled others with grace and understanding.

“Saint Mary’s has many truly outstanding people who have dedicated their lives to working here, but Jerry is part of the very few who definitely are the ‘best of the best,’” Measell said. “Throughout his years here, he demonstrated excellence in teaching, scholarship and service.

“He loved his students dearly and always wanted them to learn as much as they could. … Jerry knew how to relate well to others and his rapport with his students was remarkable — leading many to stay in touch with him after graduation.”

One of these former students, Courtney Parry, class of 2009, said she grew especially fond of McElroy, as the two worked together researching, conducting data analyses and writing reviews of several publications.

“We worked well as a pair — he would identify a hypothesis (often in an area of island research, his specialty) and I would run the data to prove or disprove the hypothesis,” Parry said. “I would identify the needed datasets, clean the data and run the models.”

The research Parry conducted for her senior thesis was used in an article Parry and McElroy co-published her senior year. Parry said she also helped McElroy with a second article after she had graduated.

Parry said she will remember McElroy as a wonderful teacher and mentor along with his family who she grew close with over the years.

“In many ways, they [the McElroy family] ‘are Saint Mary’s’ — kind, generous in spirit, faithful and supportive.”

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About Kelly Konya

Kelly Konya is an English major bred on Catcher in the Rye and Roman cornettos.

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