In memory: Rosemary Whitaker

Emeritus Professor Rosemary Whitaker passed away on April 30 at the age of 91. She was born to Claude R. and Edith Bradford Whitaker on August 9, 1930, in Seminole, Oklahoma. She attended Oklahoma University, where she majored in music, graduating in 1952. One of her fondest college memories was playing in the Sooner Marching Band and performing at the 1951Cotton Bowl in Dallas. It was through the band that she met Myra Jo Moon, who became Rosemary’s life’s companion until Myra’s untimely death in 1993. Rosemary furthered her education at OU, earning a Masters and a English, the latter completed while she was working at CSU.

Rosemary came to Colorado in 1965 to begin a 36-year career in the English Department at Colorado State University. When she moved from the plains of Oklahoma to the mountains of Colorado, she felt like she’d moved to paradise. In addition to teaching classes in American literature, she served as chair of the English Department for eleven years and, for two years, as the director of the newly established Center for Studies in American Ethnicity. Rosemary was influential in reshaping the department’s working conditions and curriculum. She made space for faculty research and curriculum design with a one-course teaching reduction from 3/3 to 3/2 across the board for faculty. She added a composition division to the department in order to have faculty with expertise in teaching college writing rather than assigning composition teaching to everyone. She supported the growth of the Colorado Review at a pivotal moment that led the way to the journal’s current success and reputation. With a group of faculty from the English and history departments and a grant from the NEH, she started the American Studies program. Additionally, she spent six months teaching English at Kobe Kaisei College in Kobe, Japan. She received numerous awards, including the Oliver P. Pennock Distinguished Service Award.

After her retirement in 2001, Rosemary returned to what she called her first love – classical music.  Before she began her university career in literature, she played French horn with the Tulsa Philharmonic Orchestra and taught music in the public schools.  She played piano with friends in a chamber group, and SATB recorder with various groups, including the Fort Collins chapter of the American Recorder Society and the Colorado Recorder Orchestra. Her music education often led members of her local recorder group to ask her to conduct their sessions. She was a frequent host for Friday night early music play sessions. She loved to listen as much as she loved to play. She was a frequent member of the audience at concerts by students and faculty in the CSU Music Department, the Fort Collins Symphony, and many other musical venues around the world. The friendships she formed with other musicians greatly enriched her retirement years.

Rosemary also enjoyed international travel. She visited many countries and loved the cultural knowledge and activities (including music) her travels provided. As one might expect of a literature teacher, she loved reading, particularly history and biography, and her conversation often included a good bit of “book talk.” She was an avid hiker until very late in life.

Rosemary was always close to family, even owning a cabin near her sister, Claudene, and brother-in- in-law, John. Her brother, Gerald, and nephew, Brad and their families enjoyed many wonderful visits at the mountain retreats. Family and friends will miss a truly remarkable person, beloved by all who knew her.

Rosemary was preceded in death by her parents, her sister Claudene and brother-in-law John Murphy, and brother Gerald B. Whitaker. She is survived by sister-in-law Liz Whitaker of Tucson, AZ., and the families of nephew Brad Murphy of Fayetteville, AR., nephew Brian and wife Niki of Vernon, AZ, and niece Carol Whitaker and husband Jeff Jauquet of Buena Vista, CO.

Rosemary Whitaker was grateful to her students and colleagues for a long and rewarding career, and to her friends and family for enriching her life as she enriched theirs.  She asked that no service be held. Donations in her honor may be made to two endowments she established. To make a gift in Rosemary’s memory, please visit or make a check payable to the CSU Foundation and mail directly to CSU Foundation, PO Box 1870, Fort Collins, CO 80522-1870. Whether online or via check, please indicate either the Rosemary Whitaker Endowment in the English Department, or the Whitaker/Moon Brass Player Scholarship in the Music Department.