Janet Bury, 61, Morgan State professor, vice president of Arundel school board

April 25, 2002|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Janet Bury, a speech professor at Morgan State University and vice president of the Anne Arundel County school board, died of cancer early yesterday at Harbor Hospital. She was 61.

Colleagues described Dr. Bury as a thoughtful, committed educator who went the extra mile for her students and as a board member who could cut to the heart of an issue.

"She was the kind of faculty member that we treasured," said Burney J. Hollis, dean of the college of liberal arts at Morgan, who recalled hiring Dr. Bury in 1993. "She was extremely generous, could never say no to anything, and was always willing to pitch in and lend a helping hand."

Mr. Hollis said she had not been back to Morgan since the fall semester ended, and she had not attended school board meetings for several months.

Family members learned Friday from Dr. Bury's doctors that she had cancer.

"She was the type of person that did not want people to worry," said Katie Barrett, Dr. Bury's 17-year-old niece.

Born in South Baltimore, she lived in the Belle Grove neighborhood of Brooklyn Park for 55 years.

Dr. Bury attended the old Brooklyn Park High School but dropped out before graduating. She earned a General Educational Development diploma at 18, and taught at Catholic schools in Baltimore before continuing her education at what is now Towson University and earning a bachelor's degree in political science in 1974.

Dr. Bury served in Volunteers in Service to America in Bridgeport, Conn., from 1974 to 1976, and was a co-founder of the first drug rehabilitation program there.

She earned a master's degree and a doctorate in communications from Ohio University at Athens in 1974 and 1986, respectively, and taught at Ohio University, Towson, Essex Community College, George Mason University in Virginia and Georgia Southern University in Statesboro.

Dr. Bury most recently served as acting chairwoman of the department of communication studies at Morgan. An assistant professor of speech, she also made her mark at Morgan as coach of its debate and public speaking team, the D.O.W. Holmes Forensic Society, for the past nine years.

"Under her leadership, it won more awards than any other team in the history of the university," Mr. Hollis said.

He recalled that Dr. Bury used her minivan to drive student members of the club to tournaments along the East Coast.

Dr. Bury was appointed to the eight-member Anne Arundel County Board of Education in 1996, and received a second term in 2000. She served as a member of its Early Childhood Task Force and Minority Student Achievement Committee.

"Dr. Bury brought a renewed consciousness to the board's focus on instruction," said member Joseph Foster. "She was a very deliberate person who always took the time to listen to people who had many different points of view."

She quickly established herself as an advocate for special education students. She attended meetings of the school system's special education department, and frequently alerted the staff to children that required attention.

Colleen Wilson, director of special education for Anne Arundel's schools, said that before Dr. Bury came on the board, she contacted school officials about a student who was struggling.

"Now he's in high school, and he's made some good progress," Ms. Wilson said. "And I have to admit that a lot of it was because of her advocacy for him. And I think she's done that for a number of kids."

Ms. Wilson also admired Dr. Bury's ability to get to the point during board meetings.

"She had good common sense, and often brought reason to some of the discussions that people were having," she said. "She didn't talk a lot, but when she talked it was something very much worth listening to."

A memorial service will be held at noon May 4 at Glen Burnie Evangelical Presbyterian Church, 710 Aquahart Road.

In addition to her niece, Dr. Bury is survived by two cousins, Christina Barrett of Brooklyn Park and Maggie Hyden of Millersville.

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