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Dianne Ganz Scheper, former coordinator and teacher in Johns Hopkins’ Master of Liberal Arts program, dies

Dr. Dianne Ganz Scheper was a prolific contributor of essays and reviews to a variety of humanistic journals. (Courtesy)
Dr. Dianne Ganz Scheper was a prolific contributor of essays and reviews to a variety of humanistic journals. (Courtesy)

Dr. Dianne Ganz Scheper, a scholar and author who was the former program coordinator and a teacher in the Johns Hopkins University’s Master of Liberal Arts program, died Feb. 19 of cancer at her Bolton Hill home. She was 82.

“When you were with Dianne, she made you feel as if you were the most important person in the world,” said Melissa Hilbish, who was director of the Master of Liberal Arts program at Hopkins from 2000 to 2017.

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“She was able to bring the best out of everyone she was around. She was a joyful person and everything she did came from the heart, and the students adored her. She was just a warm, bright light and a phenomenal person.”

The former Dianne Sheffer, the daughter of Robert Sheffer, a church musician, and his wife, Geraldine Schmucker Sheffer, an educator and homemaker, was born and raised in Watsontown, Pennsylvania, where she graduated from high school.

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After graduating from high school in Watsontown, she earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature in 1959 from Gettysburg College, where she had been a magna cum laude graduate and a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

In 1969, she obtained a master’s degree in English literature from the University of Maryland, College Park, with honors, and received a master’s degree in liberal arts on the history of ideas from Johns Hopkins, with honors, in 1979.

Professor Scheper earned a third master’s degree in 1984 in religious studies from the Catholic University of America, where she also obtained a Ph.D. in religious studies in 1998.

From 1971 until 2002, when she retired, she was director of the honors program at Montgomery Community College in Rockville, where she was a founder of the award-winning Montgomery Scholars Program.

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In 2007, Professor Scheper returned to work when she began teaching in the master of liberal arts program at Johns Hopkins, where she had an additional job as its program coordinator from 2010 to 2015. She also was a lecturer in the Odyssey and Osher programs at Hopkins.

Earlier, she had been an adjunct professor at the Community College of Baltimore County where she taught from 2003 to 2010 in the adult humanities program, which had been established by her husband, Dr. George L. Scheper, whom she married in 1988.

“She often said that teaching in the adult humanities program, represented in effect, another graduate education, as she engaged in nuanced book discussions with a community of highly educated, sophisticated, and humanistically-minded people,” Dr. Scheper wrote in a biographical profile of his wife.

After Professor Scheper retired in 2010 from CCCB because of her increased responsibilities at Hopkins as coordinator master of the liberal arts program, many of her former students from the class continued to meet with her in a monthly book club, her husband said.

Her motto, her husband said, was “Glady learn. Gladly teach.”

“She saw every educational situation as an opportunity to build community and commitment to humanistic and environmental values,” her husband wrote.

Professor Scheper’s interdisciplinary courses ranged widely through the humanities, some of which included titles such as “The Family in World Literature,” “Literature and the Healing Arts,” “The International Short Story,” “Place and Vision in Contemporary World Literature,” “Makers of Modern Drama” and “Nature and the American Imagination.”

In a letter to Professor Scheper, a former Hopkins student, Rita L. Walters, who is vice president for development and alumni relations at Union Theological Seminary in New York, wrote: “You are simply responsible for my graduate education at Hopkins. Your brilliance at unpacking literature and bringing it to life for this daughter of the red-clay South and the concrete-jungle was beyond the call of duty. But you did so, while allowing me the grace to discover language, and poetry and without apology make it my own.”

She was a prolific contributor of essays and reviews to a variety of humanistic journals, some of which included Belles Lettres: A Review of Books by Women, and Women’s Studies Quarterly.

In 2016, Professor Scheper began participating in former Vice President Al Gore’s Climate Reality Corps and brought that perspective to a variety of institutional and religious establishments.

She composed a Lenten meditation in 2019 that she titled “40 Days: 40 Ways/A Guide to a Green Lent,” which was published by the Franciscan Action Network, which has now been linked to a “creation-care” archive of the Global Catholic Climate Movement and the Vatican Library, her husband said.

Professor Scheper had also been active with the nonprofit Maryland Food and Water Watch and for two decades has been a core member of the Baltimore Shambala meditation group and its social and environmental justice outreach programs.

Professor Scheper and her husband shared a love for the outdoors and enjoyed visiting national parks and forests in the United States. They took summer walking tours in Europe that had been arranged by Sherpa, a British company that prepared the maps required for the undertaking. Those weeklong trips consisted of daily 10- to 15-mile walks that ended at bed-and-breakfasts, where their luggage had been shipped ahead.

“We did walks in Cornwall, the Jurassic Coast and the Cotswolds in England, the King Ludwig in Bavaria and Provence,” he said. When staying in London, Paris, Munich or Berlin, long walks were part of the couple’s regular routine.

A book lover, Professor Scheper had assembled a rather large library, and she was also an avid fan of classical music. The couple also were inveterate theatergoers and moderated the Center Stage Humanities Discussion series after Sunday matinees. They also attended Everyman Theatre and the annual Shepherdstown, West Virginia, Contemporary American Theater Festival.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, plans for a memorial service are incomplete.

In addition to her husband of 23 years, she is survived by a son, Brian Ganz of Purcellville, Virginia; a daughter, Dr. Nicole Ganz of Kensington; a stepson, David Scheper of Lutherville; a stepdaughter, Dr. Jeanne Scheper of Irvine, California; a sister, Suzanne Liggett of Berryville, Virginia; and four grandchildren. An earlier marriage to Paul Ganz ended in divorce.

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