Professor Emeritus of English Reginald W. Whidden, former dean of the college, passed away May 8, 2012. He was 107.
According to History of Mary Washington College, 1908-1972, by Edward Alvey Jr., Whidden was a beloved professor whose classes were quite popular. He rose through the ranks during his 27-year tenure at Mary Washington, helping shape the institution as it transitioned from a school for teachers to a liberal arts college. He worked to revise academics, refine the advising process, and revamp publications, all while maintaining a sense of humor and endearing himself to students.
Whidden arrived late for his first interview with President Morgan L. Combs, then inadvertently insulted him, but joked later about the incident, according to Alvey’s book.
“They must have really wanted me here,” Whidden said, “for, even after the remark, I got the job anyway!”
Among other things, his efforts paved the way for a publication that detailed degree requirements, a revised freshman handbook, and for-credit liberal arts seminars.
Whidden earned a Ph.D. from Yale University in 1937 and began teaching English at Mary Washington in 1943. He was named assistant dean of the college in 1956 and associate dean the following year. In 1967, he was named dean, succeeding his good friend Alvey. Whidden retired in 1970.
Before his death, Whidden lived in Connecticut, near his daughter, Sue Whidden Frisch ’60. Besides Frisch, he is survived by his son, Thomas Howard Whidden, two grandsons, and a great-grandson.