Obituary: Dorothy Nelson Saladiak / English literature scholar at La Roche loved classics
May 11, 1927 — Died: Dec. 12, 2016
December 19, 2016 12:02 AM
Dorothy Saladiak in her La Roche College office during the 1980s.
By Marylynne Pitz / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
For 22 years, Dorothy Saladiak taught English literature at La Roche College, and while the petite, simply dressed woman stood just over 5 feet tall she was a formidable classroom presence who set high standards and expected students to meet them.
“She made Shakespeare understandable. I felt that really added to my education,” said Karen Carlin, a copy editor for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and a La Roche graduate.
“When I write now or edit now, if I make a certain correction, in the back of my mind I’ll remember that was something I learned from Dr. Saladiak,” Ms. Carlin added.
Mrs. Saladiak, 89, a native of Britain, battled breast cancer and dementia before breaking her hip in September. She died Dec. 12 in Concordia at Rebecca Residence, West Deer.
The English literature scholar was one of three daughters who grew up in England during the 1930s when that country experienced an economic depression. Her grandfather, a lay preacher in the Presbyterian church, taught her to read on the condition that she study the classics, not comic books.
During World War II, after airborne German machine guns fired on her high school while classes were in session, she was evacuated from Great Yarmouth to Retford, a town in Nottinghamshire in central England. Later, she survived two bombings.
After the war, her family reunited when her father began operating the King’s Arms Hotel, a pub popular with American servicemen located in East Dereham, Norfolk. One of the guests was John Saladiak, who, as a navigator in the U.S. Air Force, received the Distinguished Flying Cross. The couple married in an Anglican church on Nov. 25, 1944. In 1945, they lived on the South Side with Mr. Saladiak’s Ukrainian family, later settling in Shaler.
Starting in the 1960s, the young couple attended Duquesne University together. In 1965, Mrs. Saladiak earned a bachelor’s degree in English. That same year, she received a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship. In 1967, she earned a master’s in English with distinction and a doctorate in 1971, both from the University of Pittsburgh. With her husband, she received a Danforth Associated Fellowship in 1977. In 1990, the Sears, Roebuck Foundation gave her its Excellence in Teaching Award.
Mrs. Saladiak taught at La Roche from 1969 through 1991, retiring in 1992 to care for her husband, who died in 1994.
Michael Richmond, her nephew, said his aunt was wooed by major American universities, but committed herself to La Roche.
“She was very strong-willed. She never deviated from her point of view,” said Mr. Richmond of Derbyshire, England.
Sister Rita Yeasted, who teaches English at La Roche, holds the academic chair named for her colleague. In the 1980s, she recalled, the school admitted women in their 30s and 40s who sought English degrees after raising their children.
“Dorothy was just their cup of tea. They were eager to learn. They loved literature,” Sister Rita said. “She had a house full of books and followed PBS’s ‘Masterpiece Theater,’ ” adding that her friend also appreciated opera.
In 1983, Mrs. Saladiak started a literary society, which holds three to four meetings annually. Some of the gatherings, which drew friends and former students, were held in the basement of her home over dinners of ham, beef or chicken.
Pat Purdy, who is also from England and lives in Shaler, met her friend the Church of Our Savior in Shaler. She recalled reading old English poems in Mrs. Saladiak’s basement.
At those events, “Dorothy was in her element.She did her thesis on John Donne,” Mrs. Purdy said, adding that her friend liked Shakespeare, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Chaucer, Sir Walter Scott and Shelley as well the American poet Robert Frost.
Mrs. Purdy’s husband, Jon, said his friend was “very, very generous. She was into education big time.”
Besides her nephew, she is survived by a niece, Joanne Darvish of Weymouth, Mass.
A funeral will be held at 10 a.m. today in the La Roche College chapel, followed by burial in Allegheny County Memorial Park.