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Remembering Dr. Dorothy Flannagan
Remembering Dr. Dorothy Flannagan

The Department of Psychology is saddened to have lost a good friend and colleague.  Professor Emeritus Dorothy Flannagan passed away on Wednesday, July 8, of complications related to cancer.  She was a gifted leader, an exceptional teacher, a talented researcher, and a generous friend to many members of the UTSA community. She enriched the lives of countless students and was a constant source of encouragement and support for all her colleagues.  

An on-campus memorial service for her was held July 24 at 4:00 p.m. in the University Center Retama Auditorium (UC 2.02.02). 

A scholarship has also been established to honor her and donations may be sent to:

The Dorothy Flannagan Scholarship Fund
c/o Office of External Affairs
The University of Texas at San Antonio
One UTSA Circle
San Antonio, Texas 78249

Information about Dr. Flannagan’s highly successful career and her many contributions to the department and the university can be found through the following links: 
http://colfa.utsa.edu/psychology/news/in-memoriam-dr.-dorothy-flannagan-professor-emeritus
http://www.utsa.edu/today/2015/07/flannagan.html

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I knew Dorothy for 18 years, but whether you knew her for much more or much less time we are all here because she made a difference in our lives. I know that her family knows this, but I hope you always remember how happy you made her.  She absolutely loved talking about her son Mike’s achievements, sharing pictures of her granddaughter Katie, or talking about her sister and her family. One of the last emails I got from her focused on how much fun she was having helping to plan her niece Ann’s recent wedding. And she positively glowed when she talked about her husband Raymund. 

But, we also want you to know how much of a difference she made here at UTSA. As soon as people heard that I would be speaking today they started emailing and telling me stories about their experiences with Dorothy. In fact, so many people wanted to share that I could have easily made this into a one-hour talk (but don’t worry, I won’t). However, we have decided to collect tributes to her on the Psychology Department Website.  

As you might suspect most of the stories people are telling focus on Dorothy’s kindness, her love for her family, and how she was always the friend that had your back. When Ann Eisenberg’s husband Rich unexpectedly died Dorothy sat up with her until her parents got there in the middle of the night, and then returned the next day with groceries. When I was out of commission after neck surgery, she would pick up sandwiches on her lunch break, and drop by the house to eat with me. She hosted showers for weddings and babies, she brought gifts for people’s kids, and when one of our former junior faculty got sick she moved her into her own guest room until her family could travel to Texas. Back when we were still a division she initiated periodic women’s faculty luncheons, a tradition my colleague Stella Lopez has recently re-established, in her memory.

I also suspect that we will never really know how many students she influenced. Even after she became the Dean of the graduate school she continued to mentor students and I can’t even imagine how many letters of recommendation she wrote over the years. But, she wasn’t simply a kind person. She was also deceptively strong, persistent, and principled.  Students always told me how much they liked her classes, despite their difficulty. To verify this I looked her up on that highly reputable source: Rate My Professor.com.,  where most of the quotes were similar to this one:

“As usual, an excellent course from this professor; tough, but you will learn a lot, and learn it well…I have taken only 2 of her courses, but based on the consistent high quality of her teaching, I recommend her for any class. “

I suspect that those of you who worked with her in her capacity as Graduate Dean might have similar things to say. There are multiple departments on this campus who owe their graduate and certificate programs to her tireless attention to detail, organizational skills, and persistence. Her own research on child development was also well respected, as was her passion for translating that knowledge into helping children and families. As my colleague Bob Fuhrman recently pointed out, she was particularly supportive of faculty who were balancing work with raising young families, and was a long time supporter of the charity Any Baby Can here in San Antonio.

She was also a kickboxing queen, who always stayed in amazing  shape. I’m sure some of you have the same images I do of her swinging across campus on her crutches after she broke her foot, wearing a boot on the injured foot, and one of her trademark high heels, on the other. After she got sick she demonstrated almost superhuman strength, despite continuing to work while undergoing several years of treatment for her cancer.  Clearly, she was an incredible role model. She demonstrated to many of us that you could be kind, polite, and well dressed even when facing opposition or unfairness. She set very high standards for students, but then helped them reach them through encouragement, not belittling their efforts. And, she never gave up or quit fighting for things she believed in. In short, she was the quintessential steel magnolia, with a big heart, and the will to match.

While we are always going to wish that we had had more time with her, there is a way we can always carry her spirit with us. I think we can honor her memory, by figuring out what we most admired about how she lived her life, and emulating her.

If she challenged or encouraged you academically, do that for someone else.

If she touched you by her kindness, pay it forward.

If you feel like giving up on something, remember her persistence.

In that way we can carry a bit of her within us, and continue her quest to help others reach their full potential.

I would like to close with a poem, written by Gregory Norbet, that I first heard at a funeral for someone who was very important to me, back in 1989.   To my friend Dorothy:

I want to say something to you
Who have become a part
Of the fabric of my life

The color and texture
Which you have brought into
My being Have become a song
And I want to sing it forever.

There is an energy in us
Which makes things happen
When the paths of other persons
Touch ours
And we have to be there
And let it happen.

When the time of our particular sunset comes
Our things, our accomplishment
Won't really matter
A great deal.

But the clarity and care
With which we have
Loved others
Will speak with vitality
Of the great gift of life
We have been for each other.

Mary McNaughton-Cassill
Professor
Department of Psychology, UTSA

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Dr. Flannagan served as my advisor from 2011-2013 while I completed my Master’s degree.  She received her diagnosis during that time, but being the consummate professional that she was, Dr. Flannagan elected not to share her medical struggles with me.  She powered through her treatment with so much grace.  We continued to have weekly meetings.  She continued to edit draft after draft of my thesis.  She continued to offer me support in both my personal and professional life.  We discussed parenting struggles and research posters.  During one of our meetings, Dr. Flannagan finally told me that she was ill and that her treatment would require her to travel.  She didn’t want pity.  She just wanted me to know that she would continue to honor her responsibilities as my advisor.  I tried harder to make every new version of my thesis the last one, the perfect one.  That final draft did not come for what seemed a very long time, but Dr. Flannagan was always kind.  

I wasn’t able to choose a favorite memory of our time together before the memorial service.  During the service, I listened to the recollections shared by friends and family, and I was finally able to decide on a memory that I feel truly reflects her empathy.  I had just completed the first difficult year as a master’s student, and I was preparing to fly home in order to visit my goddaughter who had been born only a few days prior to our meeting.  Of course, Dr. Flannagan wanted to see photos.  The stress of graduate school, familial obligations, and the extended Texas allergy season had taken their toll.  A trip to my regular physician, a dermatologist, and an allergy specialist had finally confirmed that I was experiencing severe urticarea, a condition commonly known as hives.  Hives covered my face, neck, arms, and legs.  Prescription antihistamines had not successfully cured my condition.  I was itchy and miserable.  I joked about being worried that the airline employees, believing me to pose a health risk, would prevent me from boarding the plane.  In fact, I had already acquired a doctor’s note that explained the non-transmissible nature of my medical condition in the event that this actually did happen.  Dr. Flannagan offered me a sweet smile and gave my hand a squeeze.  She assured me that the hives were temporary.  She said, “This must be a difficult experience, because you are so pretty.”   She knew that sometimes a girl just wants someone to tell her that she is beautiful, and she looked past the Calamine lotion stained skin and red blotches to tell me just that.  Ultimately, the comment revealed more about her beauty, her kindness, and her empathy than it did about my appearance.   

Janet Bennett
M.S. in Psychology (2013)  and current Ph.D. in Psychology student, UTSA

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Dr. Flannagan was hugely influential in my life.  I met her in the early 90s and quickly discovered what a treasure I had stumbled upon.  I asked her permission to invite my younger sister to sit in on one of her classes to know what to expect when she became a university student.  It seems in reading her tributes that she did for me what she did for so many others.  She taught me.  She had high expectations, yet would encourage and support to help get you to meet them.  She sparked my excitement for research, along with Drs. Wenzlaff, Dykes, Pillow, and Fuhrman.  She believed in me and helped me realize goals I did not originally have for myself.  She helped guide me through meeting countless deadlines, revisions, and applications.  I am proud to say that we met them-with her support and help (even when we did not originally believe that we could!).  I am so proud to have worked with her.  I am thankful for the things she taught me.  I am thankful that our research was published.  I am thankful that she helped guide me through my first graduate degree.  I am a better person today because of her.

Dr. Flannagan was very important to me.  I am so thankful she read scripture at my wedding.  I was proud to introduce her to my husband and children.  I am so thankful to have met Michael and know Katie a bit more.  I was reading through her notes, cards, and emails recently and found the sweetest note about my daughter’s birth.  She expressed her joy at Katie’s birth the following month in that card.  Her joy was apparent and seen every time after when we could connect.  Dr. Flannagan was one of the first I invited to our first home in 2002.  She expressed how she saw the red tips growing to allow for more back yard privacy in the future.  She was right, and I think about it every time I see them. 

Dr. Flannagan was my first real university connection.  She was my mentor and became my friend.  I knew I was in the presence of greatness when I was with her, yet she remained approachable, real, and genuine.  I am so thankful for all she has done in my life that it truly overwhelms me.  However, she also created so much through UTSA that will strengthen generations.  As I walked through UTSA to attend her service with my small children, I remarked at how much has changed.  We were able to have a discussion about all the degrees potentially available to them when the time comes.  I have always been so thankful for Dr. Flannagan; however, that moment with all the new buildings and possibilities for generations to come was poignant.  What a lasting legacy!   She is greatly missed.

Cilla Stultz
M.S. Psychology
UTSA 1997

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I was blessed to know Dr. Flannagan in undergrad and graduate school. In undergrad she was inspiring and intimidating.  She always had a smile on her face and had a grace about her that was captivating.  As a professor she was smart and made me think.  Her classes were never the “easy” ones, but they were the classes that made you a better person.  When it was time to for my thesis committee for grad school she came highly recommended.  I remember the day I walked into her office to formally ask her to be on my committee.  I was so nervous, I was worried that my topic might not be of interest to her or that she would simply not like me or have the time.  She said that my topic was not an area of expertise for her, but she might learn something new through the process.  I walked out thinking how incredibly humble she was.  Me teach her something….not likely.  The day of my defense I walked in and she looked up from the table and gave me that amazing smile and said “it is okay, we just want to chat.”  I took a breath and made it through my defense.  Dr. Flannagan made me a better teacher, a better researcher, a better person.  I will be forever grateful for her influence on my life. 

Jodi Moss Lyssy
PSY MS, 2001, UTSA

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Upon learning of Dr. Flannagan’s passing, I feel a deep, deep emptiness in my heart, as if she is still part of my daily life, even though I haven’t seen her smiling face in years. I knew, from the moment Dr. Fuhrman introduced me to Dr. Flannagan in August 2001, that in addition to guiding my thesis research, this kind, warm person would have such a significant impact on my life.  Dr. Flannagan took care of me, like only she could.  In addition to weathering a daunting data collection, analyses, and draft after draft of my thesis, I had the treasured privilege of working alongside Dr. Flannagan in what was then the Office of Graduate Studies, as a work study student.  Through it all, she always took care of me and I will forever be grateful.  When I learned that she was no longer with us on this earthly journey, I craved a connection to her.  I thumbed through my thesis copy and was touched to read the Acknowledgements section, where what I wrote about her then, still holds true today.  It reads, “I would like to acknowledge and sincerely thank Dr. Dorothy Flannagan, who has been more of a blessing than I ever imagined a mentor could be.  She has truly inspired my passion for research and helped me to realize my maximum potential as a graduate student through her dedication and faith in me.”

Rest peacefully Dr. Flannagan, your work will live on, transforming knowledge and lives because we will continue to do the work that you taught us to do.

Christina Hinojosa, MS, CCRP
Sr. Clinical Studies Coordinator
Department of Leukemia

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I feel truly honored for knowing Dorothy Flannagan from different perspectives, and all of them demonstrate how loving and special she was.  First, I knew Dorothy as a UTSA graduate student and as the Dean of the Graduate School.  I have a very vivid memory of walking across the stage in December, 2008, and seeing tears in Dorothy’s eyes as she shook every students’ hands and congratulated them on their accomplishments.  What struck me is that she was truly happy for every single graduate—not just her own students.  She shared in the joy of each student, and I continue to find that to be a very special leadership attribute of hers. 

I also knew Dorothy as a UTSA staff member who works specifically with graduate students.  Though I did not work directly with Dorothy, many of her decisions impacted the policies and practices within our programs, and what I always found were decisions that made UTSA a better place for its graduate students.  The growth at the graduate level that UTSA experienced under Dorothy’s leadership was unprecedented and no doubt an incredible testament to how hard she worked and advocated. 

Dorothy was also an advocate for the programs she led—my decision to pursue my doctorate in Educational Leadership at UTSA was very much influenced by Dorothy’s praise of that program and its faculty.  She ended up influencing a decision that was enormously beneficial for me, and I’ll always be grateful to her for steering me in the right direction.  As a female who aspires to leadership in higher education, Dorothy continues to be an inspiration to me as someone who can competently lead with a strong sense of heart.

Last, I knew Dorothy as a member of my family.  Dorothy and my uncle Raymund married in July 2012, and I cannot begin to express the gratitude I feel for her for the happiness she brought to my uncle’s life and to the rest of us in the Paredes family.  My family and I were fortunate to get to know Dorothy, her son Mike, and her beloved granddaughter Katie.  With the loss of Dorothy, my heart breaks for Katie who Dorothy always called her best friend.  My heart also breaks for my uncle who called Dorothy the love of his life.  I will always remember how hard Dorothy fought to live her life as long as she could, no doubt so she could have more time with Katie, Mike, and Raymund.  Despite the odds, we were all given more time with Dorothy than we originally thought we would, but regardless, the loss for everyone who knew her is great.

I hope that all of us at UTSA who knew her will continue to honor her memory through our work with the students here who she loved so much.

Erin Doran, Ph.D.
Educational Leadership Program, UTSA

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Dorothy was one of the first people I met when I moved to San Antonio to The University of Texas School of Public Health Regional Campus.  She enthusiastically collaborated on developing a cross-campus doctoral program and facilitated many other discussions and partnerships.  She was generous in spirit and was a model of collegiality.  I so admired her intellect and it was an honor to have worked with her.

Sharon Cooper, Ph.D.
Professor of Epidemiology
UT School of Public Health
San Antonio Regional Campus

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I was very sad to hear the news of Dr. Flannagan's passing.  My heart goes out to her family, students, and the UTSA faculty.  Dr. Flannagan was a wonderful mentor and support during my thesis project and during my two years at UTSA completing my master's degree.  It was a rough time for me, moving across the country, my first attempt at graduate school (which can be a humbling experience) – and Dr. Flanngan had an incredible way of being both firm but supportive of students throughout the program.  I appreciated the assistance and careful feedback she gave me throughout my thesis project and during my very first legitimate efforts at conducting research and statistical analysis.  I'm certain I wasn't one of her best students – as the world knows I make a better clinician than I ever did a researcher, but to date, she was most certainly one of my best professors.  It will be difficult to replicate the impact she has had on her students. 

Kimberly D. Ernest, Ph.D.
Licensed Psychologist
Director of Outpatient Operations
Director of Crossroads

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I remember Dorothy best from when I worked with her on the graduate degree proposals for the Political Science program and on the Graduate Council. She was unfailingly constructive and substantive and a pleasure to work with. One of the best leaders of the University administration in my experience.

Steve Amberg
Department of Political Science, UTSA

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In 2011, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board approved a novel joint Translational Science PhD Program jointly sponsored by the University of Texas (UT) at San Antonio, the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, UT Austin (College of Pharmacy) and the UT School of Public Health (San Antonio Regional Campus).  A diverse group of faculty and administrators worked together for 3 years to achieve this vision.

Dr. Flannagan was a key leader on this collaborative team.  Her deep knowledge about graduate program development and higher education administration in Texas were invaluable in steering the program approvals through the schools, the UT System, and finally through the Coordinating Board.  She was a master diplomat and consummate pro – the Translational Science PhD would not exist had it not been for her strategic thinking, calm presence, and wise counsel.

Now, as part of her professional legacy, this program is up and running with 14 very diverse talented students following individualized training schedules among the four campuses to tailor their education to their research needs.  We’ve had our first two PhD graduates with several more advancing to candidacy.

I am grateful for Dorothy’s partnership in this endeavor.

Professionally, and personally, I miss her very much.

With respect,

Michael J. Lichtenstein, MD, MSc
Director, Office of Research Education and Mentoring
Institute for the Integration of Medicine and Science (IIMS)
UT Health Science Center at San Antonio

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People like Dr. Flannagan — Dorothy, as she’d probably want me to drop the formality — don’t come around often. I know we say that about anybody that has passed, but it’s the God’s honest truth when it comes to her. I have yet to encounter anybody else like her, anybody that even came close to paralleling her effortless eloquence, her spirit, her unapologetic dedication to her student, family, and institution. Her zeal, natural sense of joy, or her assumed sense of optimism cannot be faked and will be forever missed.

Shruthi Vale Arismendez
Research Projects Manager
UT Health Science Center San Antonio – ReACH Center

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Dorothy Flanngan was a nationally- respected researcher and teacher in Psychology at UTSA and later the Graduate Dean of UTSA beginning in Fall 2002, serving until her illness, then intermittently until her death. She was first an outstanding scholar and teacher, as well as mother, but she had a natural gift for administration of a large, complex, and growing graduate degree program-building University, and a truly gifted sense of how to get the goals of UTSA accomplished both internally and externally. Sometimes the role and responsibilities of the Graduate Dean are not well-known, but the job includes many levels of membership in the system. Dorothy had an unusual gift in that she was absolutely sincere about anything she did, and those who interacted with her as friends and other colleagues will know exactly how powerful that gift was. I salute her in every sense.

Jeanne C. Reesman, Ph.D.
Professor of English, UTSA

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I met Dr. Flannagan when I was a grad student at UTSA. Although I never had her for any classes, I admired her. As grad students, we had nicknames for some profs. Our nickname for Dr. Flannagan was “the cheerleader”. Not just because she was just so darned cute, but because she was genuinely there for everyone, cheering them on. She was an amazing advisor to many of my friends. I am thankful to have known her, and so grateful for her example of what a mentor should be. Rest in peace, Dr. Flannagan. You are missed.

Stephanie Loalada
PSY MS Graduate 2004, UTSA

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I first met Dorothy Flanagan when I was an MA student at UTSA back in the early 1990s.  I cannot remember where I met her.  It might have been at a Women's History Week event.  Being a history student, I didn't have an opportunity to take any of Professor Flanagan's classes, but I would see her from time to time and she was always so kind and gracious.  There was something special about her.  I sensed that she cared very much about all students and not just those majoring in her field of psychology.  I also knew that she was a much admired teacher and respected scholar, but at that point, I had no idea she had talents in administration.  After I graduated from UTSA, I went on to earn a Ph.D. from Stanford University.  With my education complete, I returned to UTSA to begin my teaching career.  Once again, I was happy to see Professor Flanagan, only now she was Dean Flanagan who successfully operated an ever-expanding graduate school.  My hunch about her was right on.  She cared about all UTSA students and had taken her talents beyond her department, providing excellent service to our university by leading the charge in the creation of doctoral programs that add value to our community and the world.  The Dorothy Flanagan I saw now was one of our leaders on our university's quest to achieve Tier One status.  But for all the honor and responsibilities her position brought her, she remained the same humble and sweet person I remember from many years ago.  A person who would lock eyes with you in a crowded room and smile, making you feel glad you were there.  This is what she did for me at every graduation ceremony.  From the stage party, she would find me sitting among the faculty and simply smile and with that kind gesture she made me feel cared for and welcomed at UTSA.  Rest in peace, wonderful Dorothy Flanagan.  You have earned heaven.

Gabriela González, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of History, UTSA

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When I first meet Dr. Dorothy Flannagan it was the summer of 2007 and she taught a course of child and adolescent mental disorders, which I took as an undergraduate student.  It was then that I noticed how kind, warm and approachable Dr. Flannigan was.  A year later, I ended up being in her class as a master-level student in one of her master-level courses she taught and I found her to be much more than kind, warm, and approachable.  She ended up being my favorite professor at UTSA because she was sincere…present…genuine…and real. Not only was she kind, warm, and understanding in both of my experiences with her but she was much more than what I expressed previously…she was inspirational.
Not only was Dr. Flannagan a great professor in the classroom and she was even great person in life.   She shared part of her personal story with me and with others.  She was encouraging when I needed it. When I struggles she told me that I could do it.  I truly believe that I would not have pursued my dream of being a university professor without her.  The last time I saw Dr. Flannagan was when I graduated with my master’s in community counselor.  I gave her a warm embrace on stage knowing that I owed her so much.  Months before I graduated she wrote my letter of recommendation for the doctoral program in counselor education which I am currently in.  My biggest regret will always be not telling Dr. Flannagan  how much she has helped me through all three pipelines of college academia (i.e., undergraduate, masters’, doctorates’).  She will always be a part of my memories and experiences of UTSA. 

Jamoki Dantzler, M.A., LPC-Intern
Doctoral Candidate, UTSA

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My most poignant memory of Dorothy is when she officiated the awarding of the PhD in Computer Science to my wife Sandy.  Kay Robbins, a long-time friend and mentor, did the hooding.  I will never forget seeing the three of them together on the stage.  We all know how tirelessly Dorothy worked for expanding the graduate programs at UTSA, but she also spent countless Saturday mornings encouraging Women in Science.  Dorothy was a true trailblazer. 

Jim Dykes
Associate Professor
Psychology Dept, UTSA

PS Sandy’s most endearing memory is Dorothy giving gum to our kids. 

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I met Dorothy Flannagan some years ago when she was a graduate student at North Carolina State University.  She and my former student and good friend, Maureen Vandermaas-Peeler, had bonded in their graduate program, and Maureen introduced us.  They were like the Bobbsey Twins – such bright, inquisitive, delightful young women!  Bursting with exciting ideas and full of energy for whatever they were doing, they always had new projects underway.

After Dorothy graduated from NCSU and moved to Texas, I was afraid I would not see her again, but that was a wrong assumption.  Because our research programs were in similar areas of developmental psychology, we saw each other regularly at conferences.  Dorothy was always a bright spot in those meetings!  Dorothy, Maureen, and I spent many conference nights together discussing our families, our students, our courses, and our current research.

I was fascinated by Dorothy’s research with her clever yet pragmatic ideas and her eloquent conference talks and discussions.  I loved Dorothy’s professional expertise, but I loved Dorothy the person more.  She was a warm, intelligent, loving, elegant woman. She supported her students but had high expectations of them, and she could be appropriately tough if that was warranted.  What a joy it was to watch her mature into

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