Gloria Cerino-Gruss died of heart failure Jan. 19 at Stella Maris Hospice.
Gloria Cerino-Gruss died of heart failure Jan. 19 at Stella Maris Hospice. (HANDOUT)

Gloria Cerino-Gruss, a retired English humanities professor who was a past president of the Renaissance Institute, died of heart failure Jan. 19 at Stella Maris Hospice.

The former Parkville resident was 85.

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Born in Baltimore and raised on Hull Street in Locust Point, she was the daughter of Edward Cain, a Bethlehem Steel electrician, and Jennie Cain, a homemaker who also worked at Domino Sugar.

She attended Our Lady of Good Counsel School and was a 1949 graduate of the Institute of Notre Dame.

She obtained a bachelor's degree in education from what is now Towson University, a master's degree from the University of Maryland, College Park and a second master's, in liberal arts, from the Johns Hopkins University.

She also received a fellowship for additional graduate study at Pennsylvania State University.

"Throughout her life, my mother liked to learn," said her daughter, Mary Kelty, a Catonsville resident. "She always had a book in her hand, and her house was lined with books."

She began teaching history at North Point Senior High, then took time to raise a family and complete the master's degree at College Park. At her 1962 graduation, she was photographed by The Baltimore Sun in her cap and gown with four of her five children.

In 1966, she joined the faculty of Morgan State University. There she taught English composition and introductory humanities for more than 25 years. She retired in 1992.

She cared for her aged mother for several years and, in 1995, took on a volunteer role at Renaissance Institute at Notre Dame of Maryland University.

In the fall of 2016, she was scheduled to teach a Renaissance Institute course on Dante's "Inferno." Her daughter recalled that her mother's health was in decline, and she asked if she could teach from home. She taught eight students from her Parkville living room.

"Teaching was her life, other than her family," said her daughter. "She said she got so much energy from her students. She loved an audience. She had a wicked sense of humor. She also conveyed her knowledge and taught in an exuberant style."

"Gloria loved to teach. When there was a semester when she could not teach, she was despondent. She went into a funk," said Dr. Norma Long, a past executive director of the Renaissance Institute. "She was also a relentless recruiter of prospective instructors for the institute. She looked among our members who had an experience in an area and urged them to offer a course. She was called the Arm Twister — and she was good at it."

She was the Renaissance Institute's curriculum chair and was its president from 1996-2000. She was the 2000 recipient of the Father Joseph Connolly Award, recognizing her "long-term service and generosity of spirit."

In addition to her course on "Inferno," she taught "The Canterbury Tales" and a course on the history of prostitution. That class proved so popular she was also asked to repeat it at the Community College of Baltimore County.

Dr. Long recalled her colleague's courage to do risky things: "Gloria actually found a prostitute and brought her to the institute to speak to the class."

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Mrs. Cerino-Gruss lived many years on Holder Avenue in Hamilton. She was active in St. Dominic Roman Catholic Church and was a president of its parish council. She sang in its choir and was a cantor.

She had a summer home in South Bethany Beach, Del., and opened it to her children and grandchildren. She operated a pontoon boat in a lagoon near her home. She named the craft The Mother Ship and led crabbing expeditions.

She was a subscriber to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the Baltimore Opera Company. She traveled widely and enjoyed solving the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle.

A memorial service will be held 1 p.m. Sunday at the Marikle Chapel in Theresa Hall on the campus of Notre Dame of Maryland University.

In addition to her daughter, survivors include two sons, John Cerino of Forest Hill and Anthony Cerino of Jarrettsville; two other daughters, Janine Seadler of Pylesville and Noel Palmer of Fork; nine grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; a stepgranddaughter; and two stepgreat-grandchildren. Her marriage to Alphonse Cerino ended in divorce. Her husband Dr. Leopoldo Gruss, a family physician who practiced in Dundalk, died in 2010.

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