Novelist, Writing Champion and Book Critic Was Best Known for Being ‘Mr. SMU'

Marshall Terry would put his daughters to sleep by singing the Southern Methodist University school song, "Varsity," and the fight song, "Peruna."The creative writing professor, novelist and university administrator, dubbed "Mr. SMU," worked at the university for 50 years. He played a role in shaping SMU, writing the school's master plan, which honed the university's curriculum and educational philosophy. Terry, known as "Marsh" to his friends, authored a dozen novels and became a fellow with the Texas Institute of Arts and Letters. He founded SMU's creative writing program and the SMU Literary Festival. And he helped generations of students find their literary voices, at least eight of whom have published novels. The Dallas Morning News readers knew him as a book critic for many years in the 1980s, following the death of famed critic Lon Tinkle. Terry died Christmas Eve of complications from Parkinson's disease. He was 85. Funeral services had not been set as of Monday morning. Steve Davis, president of the Texas Institute of Letters, shared the news on Facebook, listing Terry's many accomplishments. "But above else, Marsh was a wonderful human being: kind, compassionate, funny in his quiet way, insightful, dignified, devoted to his family, always a gentleman," Davis wrote. "He was the sort of person you always looked forward to seeing. His passing is a big loss."Terry was known for his decades-long dedication to SMU. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Terry attended Amherst College and Kenyon College before transferring to SMU in 1951. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in English in 1953 and then with his master's in 1954. He went on to teach and work as an administrator for the school until 2007, when he retired.University President Gerald Turner once referred to Terry as "the campus Yoda."The novelist and short-story writer even wrote a memoir about the school after his retirement. Loving U: The Story of a Love Affair (and Some Lover’s Quarrels) With a University was published in 2011.“There are people who will tell you that SMU is not first-rate,” Terry told The News before his retirement. “But I will tell you that SMU has come a long way from when I showed up in 1951, when it was a good prairie college.”“I’m proud of that.”Terry was never any one thing. Even while teaching, he was still writing. And while writing, he was still growing the university's English department. "Some writers are just writers. Some teachers are just teachers. Some leaders are just leaders. He was all three of those in the same body. That's what made him different," said Richard Crosslind, a former SMU student and creative writing instructor. Terry gave Crosslind his first teaching job -- while he was still a student. Crosslind said he was honored by the request, "that he would trust me to teach his class when I was a student." Crosslind described Terry as tough but not overbearing. "He knew when to scold and when to praise and when to keep his mouth shut," he said.His former students said Terry could critique their work without seeming critical. "You always knew Marshall was going to help you as much as he could and tell you the truth about your writing,” author Douglas Terry told The News in 2007. “It was all about confidence and creating your own voice.”Terry was known for opening his home to famous authors, including Saul Bellow and Eudora Welty, and to his students.   Continue reading...

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