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Sue N. Greene, Towson University English professor and Indian, West Indian and African scholar, dies

Dr. Sue N. Greene joined the faculty of what is now Towson University in 1968.
Dr. Sue N. Greene joined the faculty of what is now Towson University in 1968.

Dr. Sue N. Greene, a retired Towson University professor who was a scholar in Indian, West Indian and African literature, died of heart failure Aug. 1 at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She was 89 and lived in Poplar Hill.

Born Sue Lucile Neuenswander in Superior, Nebraska, she was the daughter of Albert Butler Neuenswander, a telegraph operator for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway, and his wife, Effie Lucile Warner, a teacher and homemaker.

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After attending high school in Atkinson, Nebraska, she earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Nebraska, where she was active in dramatic productions and was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa Society.

In 1953 she met her future husband, Jack Philip Greene, a fellow university student.

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The following summer the young couple hitchhiked across postwar Europe on a shoestring budget.

In 1955 she completed a master’s degree in English literature at the University of Nebraska and later taught composition and American literature at what was then Wake Forest College.

She and her husband moved to Lansing, Michigan, where she earned a doctorate at Michigan State University.

In 1966 she and her family settled in Baltimore.

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“It was a city she loved and called home for the remainder of her life,” said her son, Granville Greene, who lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

She joined the faculty of what was then Towson State College in 1968.

“Although she was originally hired to teach freshman composition and the American literature survey, in the 1970s Sue became interested in postcolonial literature … and began to develop and offer innovative courses on the Anglophone literatures of the West Indies, Africa and the Indian subcontinent,” said her daughter, Dr. J. Megan Greene, who lives in Lawrence, Kansas.

Said a Towson University colleague, Dr. Jo-Ann Pilardi: “I was not in Sue’s department, but our offices were near each other, and a friendship developed. And once both of us retired from teaching, we began having the most wonderful long discussions, by email but also in occasional lunches — some of which she kindly and gracefully prepared in her beautiful home — about books and culture, as well as about politics, local and national.

“She was deeply concerned about racism in Baltimore and of course globally. … In her last email to me she expressed concern, in some detail, over the segregation in our city. Sue had such a keen intellect; it was always enlightening and enjoyable to have conversations with her; I learned so much. And she was a great role model because she was always intellectually honest.”

“She was always engaged in the current issues of the world and felt deeply about them. She read literature widely but also the best journalism,” said Dr. Pilardi, who is a professor emerita in philosophy and women’s studies. “Earlier this summer she told me she’d been reading a lot of Russian fiction, and most recently a Russian Jewish writer, David Bergelson, who died cruelly under Stalin, but she was also reading novels set in Sardinia by an Italian woman writer, Delgado. She concluded: ‘In short, I wander all over and enjoy the adventure.’ ”

Another friend recalled Dr. Greene.

“We were friends for over 50 years. Sue was a quiet, caring, generous friend with firm ideas about how the world, the planet, could be much better for everyone,” Joanne Nathans said. “Reading was a lifelong passion, especially Caribbean, African and other fiction less known in the U.S., which was her area of expertise. … There’s no one like her.”

Her daughter also said her mother’s interests drew her into the world of West Indian literature. By the 1980s she was attending and presenting at conferences, learning from the West Indian writers she met at these conferences, publishing articles and reviews.

She also coordinated a lecture series of West Indian scholars for the Johns Hopkins University Program in Atlantic History, Culture, and Society.

Over time she developed an interest in African and Indian literature written in English. In 1985 she was selected to participate in a National Endowment for the Humanities summer seminar on African writers in Austin, Texas.

In the late 1980s she returned to her earlier interests, embarking on an edition of writer Arthur Maynard Walter’s journals.

Her family remembered her as an excellent cook known for her spanakopita, pavlovas (a meringue dessert) and cherry pies.

“She was a mentor, caregiver and friend to many of her husband’s graduate students. She did art projects with her children, read to them before bed, and looked after their every need, her son said. “At each stage of her life, Sue established lifelong friendships that continued to be very meaningful to her right up until her death.”

Following her retirement from Towson, Dr. Greene volunteered as a tutor at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School and with adult English as Second Language students at St. Ignatius Church in Mount Vernon.

She also volunteered for a time in the Baltimore offices of former Sen. Barbara Mikulski.

“She expressed her many artistic talents through poetry, drawing, watercolor painting and printmaking, and took art classes at Maryland Institute College of Art,” her daughter said.

Over the years, she exercised with a water aerobics group and participated in literary discussions with her book club.

Her family said she delighted in her season tickets to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and often attended exhibits at the Walters Art Museum and the Baltimore Museum of Art.

She enjoyed walks in her Poplar Hill neighborhood with her friends and her Chesapeake Bay retriever, Lucy.

“Her favorite spot in Baltimore was Fort McHenry, and she was always excited to bring visitors there to share the fine views of the city, pointing out the Domino Sugar sign on the way,” her son said.

Her daughter said Dr. Greene preferred not to be a center of attention and requested there be no funeral.

In addition to her son and daughter, survivors include a sister, Claudia Beck of Louisville, Kentucky; and a granddaughter.

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