Vernon Wanty, 78, president of Essex Community College

June 11, 1996|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Vernon Wanty, who as president of Essex Community College directed expansion of the curriculum and physical plant, died June 1 of Alzheimer's disease at Willow Valley Lakes Health Center in Lancaster, Pa., where he had lived for eight years. The former Towson resident was 78.

In 1970, Dr. Wanty was appointed the second president of the 140-acre Baltimore County institution that was founded in 1957. He retired in 1982, saying that he had achieved his goals for the college and desired less pressure in his life.

"My work has really been all-consuming. I'm fortunate to have dinner at home two nights a week," he told The Sun in 1981.

In directing curriculum changes, Dr. Wanty was closely involved with the creation of the physicians assistance program and other allied health programs that the school offered in conjunction with Franklin Square Hospital Center and the Baltimore County Health Department.

During his tenure, the faculty and student body grew, as did the physical plant. Several buildings were opened, including the college center and its 450-seat theater.

Dr. Wanty was popular with faculty and students. They appreciated his irreverence, which many claimed was a holdover from his days as a newspaperman.

The native of Sheffield, England, worked as a reporter and editor for the New Wilmington Globe, a Pennsylvania weekly before joining the faculty at Towson State University in 1960, teaching English, journalism and speech. In 1967, he was appointed dean of the faculty of Middlesex County (N.J.) College.

A colorful character and storyteller who spoke with a clipped British accent, Dr. Wanty was a prolific free-lance writer whose column "Yorkshire Pudd'n" appeared weekly in the Jeffersonian newspaper in Towson.

"He was a lot of fun to be around and had a great sense of humor," said Mary Webster of Monkton, who became friendly with Dr. Wanty when he was an elder and member of Chestnut Grove Presbyterian Church and later Towson Presbyterian Church.

"He told a wonderful story about trying to sell vacuum cleaners after the war, and not being being too mechanical, had trouble making the thing work," Mrs. Webster recalled.

Dr. Wanty was born and raised in Yorkshire, England, which later became the subject of one of his lectures, "How I Lost My Yorkshire Accent."

During World War II, he served with the Royal Engineers and Royal Artillery and participated in the 1940 evacuation of Dunkirk. In 1942, he landed with British forces in North Africa and later fought in France and Italy.

While serving at Allied Forces headquarters in Caserta, Italy, he fell in love with the former Mary Blackwood, a WAC assigned to a signal company.

"We were married between VE Day and VJ Day," recalled Mrs. Wanty.

After being discharged at war's end with the rank of sergeant, Dr. Wanty immigrated to the United States and earned a bachelor's degree in 1954 at Westminster College in Pennsylvania, and a master's degree in 1956 and doctorate in 1967 from Michigan State University.

During retirement, Dr. Wanty continued "reading broadly and writing and trying to play golf," his wife said.

He also is survived by a daughter, Margaret B. W. Graham of Little Deer Isle, Maine.

A memorial service was held Friday in Lancaster.

Pub date: 6/11/96

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