When Ouida Word Dickey came to Berry College in 1946, school officials had no idea they would come to know a woman who would champion every acre of the college.
Dickey, who passed away on Monday, has become synonymous with Berry and the community of Rome for over 70 years.
Hailing from Wildwood, Florida, Dickey became the first of 11 siblings to attend college. She graduated in 1950 with two degrees — in English and Business administration, and married her Berry sweetheart, Dr. Garland Dickey, who participated in Berry College’s intercollegiate athletics program.
Ouida Dickey got her master's degree in education at George Peabody College, and received her doctorate degree in education at the University of Georgia. She then chose to return to Berry and was instrumental in the development of the computer science program, the Freshman Year Experience Program, and the Center for Economic Education.
“Dr. Dickey had a deep and abiding love of Berry College,” said Debbie Heida, chief of staff at Berry College. “She was known equally for her standards of excellence and her care and support to mentor multiple generations of Berry students, faculty, and alumni.”
Dean of Education and Human Sciences at Berry, Jackie McDowell, remembers Dickey as “a mentor, a guide, and a great friend.”
McDowell said her first encounter with Dickey was a phone interview to work for her. When McDowell interviewed for the research position, Dickey was the associate dean of student services at Berry College.
“She hired me sight unseen,” McDowell said. “I didn’t even pronounce her name right, but she hired me anyway.”
In 1989, Dickey became a member of the Kiwanis club of Rome — just two years after the club started accepting women. Dottie Gregg, a fellow Kiwanian and retired educator, said Dickey served in a wide range of roles but her favorites involved young people.
“She often served as chair of Youth Services, where she worked on projects that addressed children and youth safety,” Gregg said. “Ouida was an exemplary Kiwanian because she was an exemplary human being.”
While she is known as a Berry legend, Dickey was also a proud resident of the Summerville Park community.
Eric McDowell, president of the Summerville Park Neighborhood Association and professor at Berry College, said it was Dickey’s idea to form the community association in the first place back in 2007.
“It was clear that she wanted me to take the reins, but it was her idea,” he said.
He also bounced an idea off Dickey: writing a book about Summerville Park. That idea manifested itself in “Summerville Park: A Centennial History”. She finished the book in two years and debuted it in 2013.
Jackie McDowell said Dickey was working on a book about the Daughters of Berry, an organization at the college that preserves and maintains the history of the school and the Oak Hill property. She was the president of that organization and also served as president of the Berry College Alumni Association.
Dickey is survived by her two daughters, Angela and Jennifer, who are also Berry College graduates. A memorial service is planned for Saturday, Jan. 25, at the College Chapel at Berry College.