Allan Starkey's colleagues called him a master teacher of English and writing.
Allan Starkey's colleagues called him a master teacher of English and writing.

Allan E. Starkey, a longtime English teacher and actor who was a devoted opera fan, died Wednesday from complications of pneumonia and lymphoma at Mercy Medical Center. The Tuscany-Canterbury resident was 77.

“Allan was an extraordinary man and was an icon of how to teach English effectively in middle and high school,” Gloria A. Neubert, who retired in 2013 from Towson University’s Department of Secondary Education, where she was a professor, wrote in an email.


“As a young teacher in Baltimore County, I was given an English curriculum guide designed by Mr. Starkey, and I kept hearing stories of this man, whose methods of teaching and engaging personality were what every English teacher should emulate,” wrote Dr. Neubert, a Cockeysville resident and a national expert on reading.“There was a certain veneration that surrounded Allan.”

Dorothy E. Hardin, retired principal of Pikesville High School, was both a colleague and friend.

“Allan was very demanding, knowledgeable, brilliant, in your face, and you couldn’t pull the wool over his yes. He was so far ahead and deep at the same time,” said Ms. Hardin, a Palmyra, Pennsylvania, resident. “And he would not suffer fools gladly.”

Allan Ernest Starkey the stepson of Dr. Harold E.B. Webb, a dentist, and his wife, Madeline J. Kboche Webb, was born in Baltimore and raised in Highlandtown. He was a 1960 graduate of City College and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1964 in speech and drama at Towson University. He obtained a master’s degree in 1972 in educational administration and supervision from Morgan State University, and a second master’s degree in liberal arts in 1983 from the Johns Hopkins University.

He began teaching in 1965 at Perry Hall High School and was named English Department chair at the school in 1971, and from 1971 to 1975 headed the English Department at Kenwood High School.

From 1975 to 1977, Mr. Starkey was a specialist on the Office of Language Arts at Baltimore County public schools headquarters at Greenwood, and then was English Department head at Dulaney High School until 1981, when he became coordinator of English language arts for Anne Arundel County public schools.

In 1987, he was named coordinator of language arts for Howard County public schools, a position he held until retiring in 2000. He returned to Towson University in 2000 as a lecturer in the Department of Education, a position he held until retiring for a second time in 2016, only to return as an adjunct professor.

Mr. Starkey taught Methods of Teaching English and Young Adult Literature at Towson.

“He was masterful in studying and adding the latest research and technology to his courses,” said Dr. Neubert, who convinced Mr. Starkey to join the Towson faculty. “His last hurrah was teaching the ethics course to education students. What a perfect course for a man of Allan’s professionalism and integrity.”

He also taught as a faculty associate from 1993 to 2000 at the Johns Hopkins University School of Professional Studies in Business and Education.

“English was his subject, he was dedicated to it, and that was the world he lived in,” said Robert Henry “Hank” McGraw of Bel Air, who was chair of the English Department at Hereford High School. “And he was obviously a good teacher and earnestly promoted sentence composing and syntactical maturity techniques to improve students’ writing abilities.”

Sharon Norman, a retired English supervisor for Baltimore County public schools, where she had also been director of Business Community and Parent Relations at Greenwood for 10 years.

“My first experience with Allan was at Perry Hall High School, from which I graduated in 1965. He wasn’t my English teacher, but he was my drama teacher. I got to know him that way. He was brilliant and he loved the theater and opera. That was very important to him and he had very high expectations."

Ms. Norman ran into Mr. Starkey again when she joined the English faculty at Kenwood High School.


“He was my mentor and my first department chair in 1973, and he helped me survive my first year of teaching. He exhorted you to be as professional as he was,” said Ms. Norman, a Cockeysville resident. “I know I was a more effective teacher for my students because of Allan Starkey.”

“Allan was the ultimate classic role model for many of us,” said Ms. Hardin.

“The teaching of writing is what he brought to schools and teachers. And as a specialist, he introduced the three phases of composition: pre-writing, draft and finally revision,” Ms. Norman said. “It was a very interesting approach and considered groundbreaking at the time. It then became standard. Allan was the vanguard of that.”

“Allan was a specialist in the teaching of writing, that was his forte, and was genuinely interested in language and writers. He was also the molder of future English teachers,” said Donald Killgallon, a Lutherville resident and a former Baltimore County educator.

“Allan excelled in every aspect of English language arts education, starting from teaching English at Perry Hall Senior High School in Baltimore County,” Mr. Killgallon wrote in an email. He and his wife, Jenny Killgallon, have written 18 books on sentence construction. “Through his expertise in English language arts in all those professional roles, he created a lasting legacy.”

Other major interests in Mr. Starkey’s life were the theater and opera, and in his younger days, acting.

"He was a very dynamic and commanding actor who was very believable in the roles that he handled,' said Lynn Summerall, a longtime friend and Hampden resident. “I always considered Allan a star. He was a very good leading man and character actor.”

Mr. Starkey lived in Northwood and later Ridgeley’s Delight until moving to a condominium in the the Colonnade several years ago.

He was a supporter of the Baltimore Opera Co., Baltimore Concert Opera, Metropolitan Opera, Opera Philadelphia and Washington National Opera.

“He never gave up trying to share his love of culture with others,” Mr. Killgallon said.

Mr. Starkey enjoyed portraying himself as a ‘culture vulture,’ " Mr. Summerall said. “Regardless of where he lived or what else he was doing, he was generally on a train by 8 a.m. on many Saturdays, heading to Lincoln Center and his favorite home-away-from-home, the Metropolitan Opera, where his favorite seat was in the first row in the orchestra."

A memorial celebration will be held at 2 p.m. Dec. 15 at the Auburn House on the campus of Towson University, 8000 York Road.

There are no immediate survivors.