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Martha Gail Satz, Mother, Grandmother, Aunt, Friend, Mentor, Professor, and Counselor, passed away peacefully, listening to her favorite classical music, on Thursday, January 26th, 2023, at the Vitas Hospice Unit in Carrollton Texas. Her children were by her side, showering her with love as she left this world, just like she showered them with love throughout their lives.
Martha was, as one of her former colleagues put it, larger than life. At the time of her death, she was a faculty member in the English Department at Southern Methodist University, where she taught since 1976. She was beloved by her students, colleagues, and friends at SMU and was known as a teacher who expanded the minds of students, a colleague who cared deeply about her department, university, and fellow colleagues, an accomplished scholar, a mentor, and a friend. One of her lasting legacies at the university, beyond the generations of students whose lives she positively impacted, was as one of the founding faculty members of the freshman honors program in the 1980s, a program that still thrives today. She published and presented a myriad of papers during her long academic career on topics as diverse as philosophy, feminism, race, equality, motherhood, adoption, and disability advocacy. She has served on and chaired numerous university and national academic committees and is known nationally and internationally for her academic prowess and acumen.
Not one to rest on her laurels, she earned a master’s degree in Counseling from SMU in 2011 and, at age 68, began a career as a counselor. In this role she demonstrated a particular skill in helping people facing the direst conditions of depression, and helped many patients avoid harming themselves. She was so adept a teacher, mentor, and counselor that many of her former students, friends she mentored, and patients remained in contact with her throughout her life, some becoming close friends.
Although earning her last degree in 2011, Martha began her adult education at the University of Pennsylvania in 1959 at the age of 16, where she earned a BA in philosophy. She then went to Brown University in 1963, where she completed all but her dissertation for her Ph.D. Martha completed her dissertation at the University of Texas at Dallas and was awarded the degree of Ph.D. in Humanities in 1982.
If one were to list all of Martha’s professional accomplishments, it would require a book. But far beyond her remarkable career, Martha’s real passion was her children, her grandchildren, her nieces and their families, and her friends. She was a devoted mother to her son, Michael, and her daughter, Miriam, both of whom are mixed race and both of whom she adopted as a single mother. In fact, at the time she adopted Michael she endured a great deal of public and social criticism as a white woman adopting a child of African-American descent, and she stood resilient in her choice in the face of that criticism. Throughout the ups and downs of both of her children’s lives, she stood by them, guided them, supported them, and loved them. She taught both to be critical thinkers and helpers just like her. But most of all, she loved her children unconditionally, and both Michael and Miriam are eternally grateful for that. She absolutely adored her grandchildren, Kellan and Hadley, and was known to them affectionately as GrandMartha.
She was the matriarch of the Satz family and relished her visits with her nieces Buff and Julie, and their families, where she would regale them with stories about the Satz family, and their father and her brother Ed, as well as their grandpa and grandma.
Martha is survived by her children, Michael and Miriam Satz, her grandchildren Kellan and Hadley (Kimberly Splan, mother), her nieces Buff Kahn (Steve), and Julie Satz Stoltzfus (James), their children Ian, Alaina, Jamie, and Brooke. She was preceded in death by her brother Ed, her father William, and her mother Augusta.
The family would like to say a special thank you to our mother’s dear friend, Annette Patterson, a former student who became the closest of friends with Martha for nearly 4 decades. During Martha’s waning days, Annette visited her almost daily and would read to her, Martha’s favorite activity, even after Martha lost consciousness until her very last day. We are beyond grateful to her.
There will be a Celebration of Life for Martha on Saturday, February 18th at noon at Salum restaurant, 4152 Cole Ave #103, Dallas, TX 75204 (RSVP to Miriam Satz at Miriam_satz1@baylor.edu). Her ashes will be scattered at a later date in her favorite place, the SMU Fort Burgwin campus in Taos, NM. In lieu of flowers, Martha asked that donations be made in her name to help diverse SMU students. Donations can be made to the Altshuler-Kulus Endowed Scholarship Fund, either online by visiting https://www.smu.edu/giving, select give now and then designate the gift to the Altshuler-Kulus Endowed Scholarship fund – operating, or by check to SMU, Attn: Brandon Starr, PO Box 750305, Dallas, TX 75275.
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