Mary Procida (1959-2003)
Barbara Day-Hickman, Harriet Freidenreich, and Richard H. Immerman, May 2003
The history department at Temple University mourns the loss of Mary Procida, who was recently recommended unanimously for tenure and promotion. After an 18-month battle with melanoma, Procida, only 43 years old, passed away on March 5, 2003. She was an outstanding scholar, a gifted teacher, and a magnificent human being who excelled at every task she undertook.
Mary had a brilliant mind and a great passion for both teaching and learning. After graduating Harvard summa cum laude and completing Harvard Law School with an exceptionally fine record, she soon became dissatisfied working as a tax lawyer in a large and prominent New York firm. She embarked on a second career as a historian, earning her doctorate with highest distinction at the University of Pennsylvania. She joined the Temple history department in the fall of 1997, although by the time she was selected over more than 100 competitors, Temple could no longer offer her a tenure-line appointment. Mary Procida arrived at Temple therefore as a temporary "visitor." Consequently, two years later she had to once again compete for a tenure-line appointment. As always, nevertheless, she overcame the obstacles in her path with great courage, strength, and determination. For a second time she received the appointment. As an assistant professor of history, Procida served Temple and its diverse student population with unsurpassed distinction. Sadly, she did not live long enough to receive official notification of her highly deserved promotion to associate professor. On Tuesday, March 11, 2003, the Board of Trustees voted to award her tenure and promotion posthumously.
Mary Procida described herself as a British historian, historian of women, student of imperial history, feminist scholar, and cultural historian. She was indeed all that and more. Her recently published and highly acclaimed book, Married to the Empire: Gender, Politics and Imperialism in India 1883–1947 (Manchester University Press, 2002), as well as her many articles and papers, present fascinating, multifaceted, unorthodox, and often revisionist portrayals of the lives of British women in India and their important roles in sustaining Britain's imperial rule. The nexus she established between gender and empire constitutes an invaluable contribution to our understanding of British imperial history. As one external referee wrote in recommending that Temple award her tenure and promotion, "Married to the Empire is an exceptionally compelling, freshly original, and thought-provoking work of historical revision. You are indeed fortunate to have [Mary Procida] at Temple." We certainly were.
Whether in core courses, such as Gender and History and Intellectual Heritage, or in more advanced courses and graduate seminars in British, European, and imperial history, Mary Procida unwaveringly set extremely high standards for herself and for her students. She loved to teach and constantly reached out to help students achieve their fullest potential. Although innately talented in the classroom, she consistently sought to improve her pedagogy, whether by applying new technologies or studying new techniques. Graduate students and undergraduates, both in Honors and the general program, rose to meet the intellectual challenges she presented and became her devoted fans. She served as mentor and pre-law advisor to the many history majors who eagerly sought out her advice. She willingly sat on numerous PhD examining committees; indeed, less than a week prior to her death she called our department chair to receive assurance that in her absence arrangements had been made to administer examinations to "her" students. In addition, Procida, named a teaching fellow of Temple's College of Liberal Arts, participated enthusiastically in teaching enhancement circles and led department and college efforts to strengthen the curriculum. Whenever there was a special project that needed to get done, one could count on her to do it creatively, quickly, and well.
As witty as she was bright, Procida loved life and lived hers to its fullest. She could not imagine wasting even a minute's time. Her ability to "do it all," and to do all well, was truly amazing. During her years as an affluent tax lawyer in New York, she studied piano, attended theater and opera, and went hiking and mountain climbing out West. More recently, while living on a more modest income in Philadelphia and Haddonfield, New Jersey, she enjoyed shopping, movie dates with her husband Glenn Moramarco, and sharing quality time with her young sons, Joey and Danny. She would steal a week from her summer research for family vacations at Bethany Beach, Delaware. Even during her lengthy illness, she kept her spirits high, maintained her hope and her faith, and remained concerned about her friends, her students, and the future of the history department.
Mary Procida's life was tragically short. She did not have enough time to achieve all of her dreams. She never spent the grant she received to conduct research on her next book, which she had already entitled England Expects Every Woman to Do Her Duty: Women, War, and the Imperial State. But in her brief time at Temple, Mary Procida made a special impact, and she left for us a very special legacy. Every student whom Mary taught, every colleague who heard Mary discuss scholarship, and every member of the Temple community who had the privilege to keep company with her grew richer from that experience. Mary Procida will remain an inspiration to us all. We will miss her very much.
—Barbara Day-Hickman, Harriet Freidenreich, and Richard H. Immerman, Temple University