Thursday, April 9, 2015

Remembering Cynthia Manley

The Austin College community is saddened by the death of Dr. Cynthia Manley, professor emerita of French at Austin College.

She joined the Austin College faculty in 1977 and shared her love of the French language and the culture of France with hundreds of students before her retirement in 2010. She loved teaching and once said her goal in teaching French was to create success for her students in learning ‘usable’ language.

Cynthia worked with many outreach activities of the language department, including many years of organizing Foreign Language Weekend and Fete Francaise programs, which brought hundreds of high school language learners to campus. She later was involved in the Richardson Language Institute for Texas teachers of French, Latin, Spanish, and German. In addition to teaching and mentoring , Cynthia long was involved in research of 18th century French literature. In her leisure, she was a great fan of the detective novel. She also participated in the Denison Sister City program with Cognac, France.

For several years, she also served as director of international education, helping students prepare for study abroad programs around the world. She also mentored international students attending Austin College, helping them to acclimate to their U.S. –and Austin College—home.

For the past year, Cynthia lived in Florida near her sister. The family has requested that, in lieu of flowers, memorials be made to the Wirth-Manley Endowed Founders Scholarship at Austin College that Cynthia established.

Share your memories and condolences.


  1. Cynthia Manley, along with Bernice Melvin and Carol Daeley, took a young faculty member 23 years ago as he was preparing for his first C/I assignment under their wing. The faculty member was not in their department or even their division! I will forever be thankful to the three of these wonderful professors for “leading me out of the wilderness”!
    David L. Norman
    Director of Athletics

  2. Cynthia Manley and Bernice Melvin were, along with Henry Bucher, the harbor that international students made their home when they arrived on AC shores, as I recall. Without broadcasting, they were generous to a fault and pulled strings whenever normal channels didn’t work. Like David Norman, I recall them scooting over on the bench to make room for the newbie faculty arrivals. … I’ll always be grateful. I think we’ve seen the passing of an institution at AC, one who was often willing to speak directly and honestly to the AC community and culture. May she find rest and peace.
    Terry Hoops, Anthropology

  3. Cynthia Manley was one of the first faculty to introduce themselves to me when I came to work at Austin College and always made me feel welcome anytime I saw her. We had some very interesting but always educational conversations. You will be missed Professor Manley! God's speed...
    Michael Deen, Dean of Students

  4. Cynthia was a customer at my shop, then a friend through the Grayson County Democrats and a member of the Earth Day Festival Planning Committee before her health prevented her from attending. She was a dear friend. I will always admire her strength and determination.
    Amy Hoffman-Shehan

  5. I was able to take a number of classes with Mme Manley, and I had to smile at the above language that she tried to teach "usable language." She certainly did do that, but I learned so much more in those classes. In a course on medieval literature, we read La Chanson de Roland (The Song of Roland), and though we learned grammar and vocabulary along the way, she taught us the language of deep textual analysis. As she led us through discussions of Sir Roland's adventures, she prodded us to ask questions about the portrayal of medieval masculinities, the construction of a faceless alien Other in the text's Muslims, and the vanity of those monarchs who relished tales that they might have imagined to mirror their own lives. I still strive to approach her critical acumen and the clarity of her ethics. Looking past her no-nonsense classroom persona, she shared her joie de vivre in her work with us often. She was generous with encouragement and relentless in pushing us forward. Now that I find myself on the other side of the podium, I am even more grateful to have had such professors.
    Brian Watkins, Anthropology

  6. I took a few intro level French courses with Mme Manley and remember her as a very engaging and entertaining instructor with a great passion for and knowledge of French language and culture. Thank you for making French fun, Mme Manley.
    Allison Varley, Class of 2009

  7. I remember one day I was in the downtown Braum's (now closed) and Cynthia was there by herself enjoying some ice cream concoction. I asked if I might join her. "Sure, darlin', have a seat." It was her birthday. We talked about her classes, her health, my family. She knew the days in the classroom were numbered and she hated that more than anything. After she retired, she was able to complete some research she'd set aside many, many years before and it was published and we have it in Abell Library. She told me many times, "Darlin', the squeaky wheel gets the grease." Cynthia knew when to squeak loudly and it was typical of her that it was usually in support of students or colleagues. She could be fierce and she was fiercely loyal. The last time I saw her, she could barely get out of bed, but her concerns were for her three cats and that they would have good homes, as she couldn't take them with her to Florida. I was very happy to text her that the one we have is doing well. John West, College Librarian, another friend of Mme Manley.

  8. I am deeply saddened by the news of Cynthia's passing. She taught my intro level French course. I struggled greatly. I considered dropping. Mme Manley didn't give up on me. She arranged for me to work with an exchange student from France and with extra help from them both, I passed the class. To this day, I'm very proud of that D+ I earned in French. I'll take it over all the A's I got in other classes. I appreciate her believing in me, more than words can express.

    My condolences to her family during this time of loss.

    Heisha (Hunter) Freeman, Class of 1994

  9. While I had many excellent professors at AC, Cynthia was the one that got me through my year abroad. She was the one I looked forward to seeing, who I depended on and loved, and who I will mourn. She was so funny, a bright light in a rather dark time in my life. Merci Beaucoup, Madame.

    Susan Spearman VanMeakins, class of 1985

  10. I remember Cynthia Manley as a scintillating, hilarious, and if necessary, scathing force to be reckoned with in Sherman Hall when I was a Peer Teacher of German in the late 70's and early 80's. Though I never imagined then that I would follow in her footsteps to become a female academic myself, I was always taking mental notes whenever I was around her. If we aspire to Cynthia Manley-esque dedication to students and profession and if we emulate her resilience in the face of formidable odds, we can consider ourselves both successful and memorable—as attested to by the many comments above. Marilya Veteto Reese, Class of 1982

  11. I did not take French and did not study abroad while at AC, but Dr. Manley was my assigned mentor as a freshman. I stuck with her through my whole time at AC and I'm glad I did. She was supportive and kind, but also a spitfire and knew what I needed to hear when I sometimes didn't want to hear it. I appreciated her honesty, her humor and her dedication to her students. She will be missed.

    -Amy (Snyder) George, Class of 2004

  12. Nicole (Aratingi) Lehmann, Class of '94April 10, 2015 at 9:23 PM

    Cynthia was probably the professor with whom I had the most contact in my four years at Austin College. During my junior year abroad in Lyon, Cynthia had a sabbatical year and she lived a mere block away from me! Whether we were in the classroom, cooking in the language house, or voyaging through France, Cynthia always cared for us as if she were a mother hen. Cynthia expected a lot from us, but she always made challenges fun. Most importantly, Cynthia made sure that we believed in ourselves, and we blossomed as a result of her tireless dedication to us. Cynthia continues to live in me as I connect with and challenge my own students. Tu vivras dans mon coeur pour toujours, Cynthia.

  13. I had the pleasure of working with Cynthia through the Campus Store. She was a kind person and I know how much teaching here at Austin College meant to her. My grandkids knew her as the Ice Cream Lady. They lived on the same street as Cynthia and she would often invite them for ice cream at her home. I, just the other day, was wondering about her. She will be missed. Linda Franzeo

  14. I was a French and history major, rising senior in fall, 1977 when Cynthia arrived at Austin College. Fresh out of UT Austin PhD about Voltaire, she took me under her wing, along with Myron Low, and guided me to an honors thesis on the correspondence of Catherine the Great of Russia and Voltaire. Since then we have remained friends, and she a mentor to my four daughters. She was there when my mother died and again at my father's death. Her indomitable spirit no doubt continues in another dimension. This one's light is diminished with her passing. (Dr.) Jill Kerr

  15. Monday, August 31, 2015
    For Dr. Cynthia M. Manley, PhD
    Cynthia wasn't just a professor of French, she was also a life teacher, mentor, and friend. She truly cared, she was personable, and I felt her warmth. When I was planning to go away to university, I considered attending UT at Austin. But, I was nervous about going to such a big (and probably impersonal) school, and I might not have survived in such an environment, so, I chose a small, liberal arts college, Austin College. At Austin College, Cynthia embodied exactly what I was looking for - - guidance, warmth, and nurturing. Cynthia gave me the support that I needed at a critical point in my life, and I will never forget that. I left Austin College with the confidence that I needed to forge my way through life.

    Thank you, Cynthia
    Benjamin Flores, BA, French and Psychology, Austin College 1988

    And now, I'd like to quote a poem that Cynthia taught us French majors with relish, and which captures the mood:

    Paul VERLAINE (1844-1896)

    Chanson d'automne

    Les sanglots longs Des violons De l'automne
    Blessent mon Coeur D'une langueur Monotone.

    Tout suffocant Et blême, quand Sonne l'heure,
    Je me souviens Des jours anciens Et je pleure

    Et je m'en vais Au vent mauvais Qui m'emporte
    Deçà, delà, Pareil à la Feuille morte.