September 8, 2013 12:27:32 AM
Elizabeth "Betty" Jane Dice, whose tenure as an art professor at Mississippi University for Women spanned nearly 40 years, died August 22.
She was 94.
Aside from a three-year sabbatical Dice took in the 1960s to pursue her master of arts degree in Indiana, she was a mainstay at MUW from 1945-82.
She moved to Columbus to teach costume design and art education when MUW was known Mississippi State College for Women before starting the ceramics and weaving departments there.
Dice was an avid traveler and supporter of the Nature Conservancy, which started an endowment in recent years in the name of her father, Lee Raymond Dice.
After retiring, she remained in Columbus until 2010, when she moved to Norman, Okla., to be closer to family.
Former MUW art professor Eugenia Summer said she enjoyed having Dice as a personal friend and colleague.
"She was very fond of organizations that were for the environment, and I am too, so we shared that," Summer said. "She would go birdwatching with me. I miss her very much. I missed her when she moved away from here and I was sorry to see her go."
Summer said a wall hanging Dice designed and wove remains behind the altar in the Lenore Woolard Carrier Chapel on the MUW campus.
"She was asked to do that, and it took her quite a long time. That was a great contribution on the campus. They wanted to pay her and she said, No, that she was honored to do it," Summer said. "She was very talented in weaving and sewing of all kinds. She was very skilled and could make some of her own clothes. She would go traveling and I remember she brought back beautiful fabrics from every country she went to."
Kate Parrish, Dice's niece, said one of her favorite childhood memories was visiting her aunt's house.
"We didn't visit often but Aunt Betty would always have things for us to do. On more than one occasion my brothers and I got to try our hand at the potter's wheel," Parrish said. "Betty would help us glaze our creations and fire them for us in her kiln...She helped us set up card looms and encouraged us to play with the patterns by turning the cards in different directions. One Thanksgiving I can remember spending the whole holiday making a belt on the card loom. I still have the belt and the cards I used to weave it."
Dice was also very generous to non-profit organizations and humanitarian organizations, Parrish said. Many, including the Palmer Home for Children in Columbus, benefited from her donations.
"She also often loaned money to various neighbors who needed a little help with car repairs or medical bills," Parrish said. "Her final donation was her body to the Oklahoma University Medical Center. She wanted future doctors to have the ability to learn firsthand about the human body."
Parrish added that Dice was "not afraid to speak her mind when she didn't like something or agree with someone's point of view."
"I will always remember her as a successful woman, who cared about the environment and humanity in general," Parrish said. "She pursued her passion for art through teaching, traveling, and she enjoyed life to the fullest."
Dice is survived by a brother, John Dice of Brunswick, Maine; a sister, Dorothy Foster of Norman, Okla.; eight nieces and nephews; 15 great-nieces and nephews; and 15 great-great-nieces and nephews.
Her family asks donations in her name be given to Habitat for Humanity, the Nature conservancy, the Palmer Home for Children or a charity of choice.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.
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