Catherine R. Gira, president emerita of Frostburg State University, passed away on Tuesday, March 26. She was 86 years old. Dr. Gira served in that position for fifteen years before retiring in June, 2006.
Prior to assuming the presidency of Frostburg State University in 1991, she spent over twenty five years at the University of Baltimore, where she held numerous positions including that of Professor of English, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, and Provost. As a faculty member at the University of Baltimore, she served as president of the Faculty Senate and was the first recipient of the Yale Gordon Endowed Chair for Teaching Excellence. Dr. Gira taught at Catonsville High School in Baltimore County and was an Instructor in Writing at the Johns Hopkins University before joining the faculty of the University of Baltimore.
Of the many positions that Dr. Gira held throughout her professional life, none was more gratifying to her than teaching. Having begun her career as a high school English teacher, she remained in close touch with many of her former students for fifty or more years, many of whom visited her in her home. She regularly attended class reunions of Catonsville graduates. After her retirement she also continued to meet frequently with former University of Baltimore students and with former student leaders at Frostburg State University. She always believed that teaching was the most rewarding and vital profession that anyone could enter.
Throughout her career, Dr. Gira held numerous leadership positions at the state, regional, and national levels, including: Maryland Association of Higher Education (Chair 1982), American Association of University Administrators (Board of Directors 1986-92; President 1989-90), National Federation of State Humanities Councils (Executive Committee 1998-92; Vice-Chair 1990-92), Maryland Humanities Council (Board of Directors 1984-1992 and 2003-2008; Chair 1984-86 and 2004-6), Leadership Maryland (Board of Directors 2000-present; Chair 2005-6), Maryland Symphony Orchestra (Board of Directors 1997-2007), Maryland Women’s Heritage Center (Board of Directors 2003- present), and Middle States Commission on Higher Education (Commissioner 1995-2001; Vice-Chair 2000-2001).
Her contributions to higher education were acknowledged by numerous awards and honors, some of which include Inductions into the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame in 1998; Women in Higher Education in Maryland Leadership Award 2006; Maryland Women Legislators’ Award for Excellence 1992; and Individual of the Year, Allegany County Chamber of Commerce 2006.
Dr. Gira holds a Ph.D. in Literature from American University and an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the University of Baltimore, in addition to two master’s degrees (in education and liberal arts) from Johns Hopkins University and a bachelor’s degree from California University of Pennsylvania.
Her publications included numerous articles on Shakespeare, Renaissance art and literature, and higher education, as well as a critical and bibliographic study of Shakespeare’s Henry IV, published by Garland Press.
Dr. Gira was born in Fayette City, Pennsylvania, the only child of John and Mary Russell. She was married to Joseph Gira in 1954, and began her teaching career at Catonsville Senior High School, where she taught English and served as Department Chair. She resigned from that position to raise her two children, Cheryl and Tom, who grew up in Columbia, Maryland, where the family moved in 1968. Joseph Gira preceded her in death in 1976.
Dr. Gira is a loving mother and grandmother and is survived by her daughter, Cheryl Gira Pattin of Chicago, and son Tom of Potomac, Maryland and his wife Laurie, and their children, Ellen and Brad.
A memorial service is being planned, please check https://www.harrywitzkefuneralhome.com/listings for details to be posted. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be sent to the Catherine Gira Scholarship Fund at the University of Baltimore Foundation 1420 N. Charles Street, Baltimore MD 21201 or the Gira Fund at the Frostburg State University Foundation, Frostburg, MD 21532.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Catherine R. Gira, please visit our floral store.
Catherinee Gira Scholarship Fund c/o the University of Baltimore Foundation
1420 N. Charles St., Baltimore MD 21201
Gira Fund c/o Frostburg State University Foundation
101 Braddock Road, Frostburg MD 21532