Ouida Word Dickey

July 27, 1928December 31, 2019

Ouida Word Dickey, 91, a beloved educator and academic administrator who spent nearly her entire career as well as her retirement years serving Berry College, passed away early on December 31, 2019, following complications from emergency surgery. She was the widow of Garland Martin Dickey, also a longtime Berry faculty member, director of athletics, and head of the physical education department. Floyd County had been Ouida’s home since 1946, when at age 18 she arrived at the old Rome train station to attend Berry. Like many young people of that era, Ouida paid for her Berry education by working at the school. She was the personal secretary and assistant of Samuel H. Cook, Berry’s dean and twice interim president. One of her jobs was to maintain the official records of each student. She was assigned this task in part because of her beautiful handwriting. She also accompanied Dr. Cook when he met with the Berry Board of Trustees in Atlanta, recording the minutes in shorthand and typing them later. She majored in English and business administration and graduated within three years of beginning her studies. The day after receiving her bachelor’s degree from Berry in 1950, Ouida married Garland Dickey, another Berry graduate and a U.S. Navy veteran, who had returned to his alma mater as a faculty member after World War II. The couple lived briefly in Knoxville, Tennessee, while Garland completed his master’s degree. Ouida typed and edited his thesis, and they shared a group house with two of Garland’s brothers—Ed and Bob—and their wives, Doris Cook Dickey and Faye Lewis Dickey, all of whom were Berry graduates and were pursuing higher education.

A few years later, at George Peabody College (now Vanderbilt University) in Nashville, Ouida typed and edited Garland’s dissertation in close quarters they shared with Garland’s sister, Doreene. Ouida earned her own master’s degree in education while not only monitoring Garland’s progress toward his doctorate but also cooking dinner every Sunday for Garland, Doe, and Doe’s beau, Bill Simpkins. Ouida and Garland had two daughters, Angela and Jennifer, both of whom grew up on the Berry campus and graduated from Berry Nursery School, Berry Academy and Berry College. When the children were still young, Ouida pursued and was awarded a doctorate in education from the University of Georgia. Ouida always acknowledged that she would have never been able to pursue a doctorate and raise two children while working more than full time had Garland not been unusually progressive for a husband of that era. She and the family also relied greatly on the care, cooking and quick thinking of housekeeper Barbara Adkins, whom the daughters regard as their second mother. Ouida Blanche Word grew up in the middle Florida community of Wildwood. Her father, Thomas Alfred (“Fred”) Word, Sr., was a dairy farmer and elementary school teacher who converted his wood-slatted farm truck into, and then drove, what became the first school bus for children in rural Sumter County. Thomas’s wife, Ida Lee Joiner, was a homemaker and mother to the family’s eleven children. Ouida was number 8 in the sibling lineup. When World War II broke out, she helped the youngest brother, Robert, take care of the family dairy while the older brothers went into military service. She milked several Jersey cows before going to school each morning. At the age of seven Ouida lost her mother to influenza and pneumonia, and at the age of 14, her father passed away from complications from meningitis. Ouida and her two younger sisters lived with their older siblings for a time. She turned down two marriage proposals from high school suitors because of her great desire to attend college. She left Wildwood after high school and got on the train to Rome, Georgia. It was her first time away from home, and her sisters predicted she would be homesick and come back to Wildwood within a month. Instead, she stayed at Berry and in Rome for a total of 73 years, with only a few departures for higher education, a sabbatical in Europe, and other international travel. Early on, Ouida taught for four years in the Floyd County public schools. After initially being asked to teach English at Berry, she soon joined the business administration department as its third faculty member. Over time she became the first female Berry faculty member to earn tenure.

In the 1970s the leadership of the college began to ask Ouida to undertake special projects. She co-wrote the report that earned Berry its initial accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. After attending a summer course at the University of Indiana where she learned about computers, she ordered the appropriate computer model—the first at Berry—and had it shipped to the Green Building, where it occupied an entire room. Throughout her career and after, Ouida played key roles in the Berry Alumni Association and the Daughters of Berry, an organization of Berry alumna devoted to preserving Berry history. She served as president of each group and mentored other members in how effectively and efficiently to safeguard the traditions of Berry. She earned the Berry Alumni Association Distinguished Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award. She received the Lifetime Voice of Berry Award for Outstanding Communication. Upon her retirement the Berry College Board of Trustees awarded her the title Professor of Business and Dean of Academic Services, Emerita. Berry also conferred on Ouida an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities; a distinction that has at this writing not been awarded to another alumnus of the school. Ouida Dickey earned many accolades not only from her alma mater but also from state and regional organizations. In 2005, she was the recipient of the Georgia Historical Society Lilla M. Hawes Award for the best book on Georgia local history (Berry College: A History, co-authored with the late Doyle Mathis, academic dean). Other distinctions include Georgia Business Educator of the Year Award and the Eleana M. Garrett Award for Meritorious Advising and Caring. She established the Center for Economic Education in the Berry business department. It became one of the premier centers in the national economic education network and is still operating within the Charter School of Education and Human Sciences. The Center won the Freedoms Foundation's prestigious Leavy Award in 1983. Dickey was a longtime member of the Board of Trustees of the Georgia Council on Economic Education and at her death was a trustee emerita. She was active in the local and state branches of the American Association of University Women; Iota Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma, the professional society of women educators; the Spade and Trowel Garden Club of Rome; and Xavier Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She was among the first women to join the Rome Kiwanis Club when it adopted a more inclusive policy. Recently she was received into the American Rosie the Riveters in recognition of her work helping to maintain her family’s dairy for the community during World War II.

The descendant of a long line of preachers and teachers, Ouida was a Christian albeit one who held her faith closely. Her church affiliations over the years included the First Baptist Church of Wildwood, Florida; the Mount Berry Church; the First Presbyterian Church, Rome; and most recently, the First Baptist Church, Rome. Ouida was a voracious reader, her tastes ranging from scripture to the New York Times Book Review to Mother Jones to biographies of notable women. She devotedly watched Sixty Minutes on Sunday evenings, and expressed annoyance when in the fall of each year the show was delayed due to a televised football game. She followed the stock market daily and sometimes offered advice to her broker. Ouida kept a beautiful garden at her Summerville Park home and even when her age and frailty prevented her from tending personally to her bulbs, shrubs and trees, she supervised carefully the work of a local firm that kept her yard tidy. She enjoyed visiting her neighbors and writing thank-you, bereavement, or congratulatory notes to friends, depending on whatever the situation required. She loved traveling internationally, and made special trips to visit daughter Angela, who spent 12 years abroad working for the U.S. Department of State. Together they saw Canada, Laos, Mauritania, Tunisia, Vietnam, and Yemen, among other countries. In the meantime, she helped edit and prepare daughter Jennifer’s articles and book manuscripts for publication. Together, she and Jennifer became the authorities on Berry history, and Jennifer carries on this tradition as Berry’s historic preservationist. Ouida authored or co-authored four books about Berry, as well as a book about her Summerville Park community. At her death she was completing a manuscript on the history of the Daughters of Berry, which Angela will now work to complete. Ouida is predeceased by her parents Thomas Alfred Word, Sr., and Ida Lee Joiner Word; brothers Thomas Alfred Word, Jr., Norman Eugene Word and Gerald Clinton Word, and their spouses; and sisters Ina Lee Word Phillips, Katie Bell Word Phillips, Grace Toy Word Chambless, Lula Ruth Word Brewer, and Winnie Beryl Word Locke, and their spouses. She is also predeceased by Garland’s siblings Edward Gray Dickey, Robert Alvin Dickey, Arthur Eugene Dickey, Ida Doreene Simpkins, and Jerry Max Dickey, and the spouses of all but Jerry. Ouida is survived by her daughters, Angela Renée Dickey of Arlington, Virginia; and Dr. Jennifer Word Dickey, of Atlanta; a sister, Quay Word Lott, Wildwood, Florida; a brother, Robert Marrs Word, Oxford, Florida; and a sister-in-law, Mary Rice Dickey, of Fayetteville Tennessee. Close surviving friends include Barbara Beavers Adkins, of Rome; Katherine Knapp, Atlanta; Patricia Norland, Arlington, Virginia; and Dr. and Mrs. David Martin and children of Atlanta. An honorary granddaughter, Emma Lewis Companiotte, of Atlanta, also survives “Gram” Ouida. Countless beloved nieces, nephews, former students and colleagues survive Ouida, too. Many of them attended Berry and will ensure that her light there never goes out. A memorial service celebrating Ouida’s life will be held in the Berry College Chapel on January 25 at 2 p.m. A reception will immediately follow at the Krannert Center Ballroom. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Ouida Dickey Endowed Scholarship or the Historic Preservation Fund at Berry College; the World Hunger Fund at the First Baptist Church, Rome; or the international medical organization Doctors Without Borders.


Ouida Word Dickey

have a memory or condolence to add?

Cheryl Freeman Snipes

January 22, 2020

Dear Jennifer and Angela Dickey,

On behalf of the Freemantown Historical Society, its officers, families and community stakeholders, we extend our sincere condolences for the loss of your mother, Dr. Ouida Dickey. Her legacy at Berry College will continue to live on through her descendants, as well as her imprint on and off-campus.  A distinguished alumnus and educator of Berry College, her commitment to preserving history is instrumental in our work as a historical society with a connection to a portion of the land occupied by the college campus.
It is an honor and privilege to have met Dr. Dickey, her living legacies, and ideals continue to shine through. 

In Sympathy,

Cheryl Freeman Snipes , President
Freemantown Historical Society

Martha Allen

January 18, 2020

Dr. Ouida Dickey was my business professor at Berry College from 1962-1964. She was always so kind and gave me good advice to help me in my classes. One day she asked me if I wanted to go to Rome with her to a gift shop. We had a great time together! I will always remember her. We have kept in touch over the years through Christmas cards and visits.

Jeanne Cahill

January 17, 2020

In 1949 I was a 16-year-old Berry freshman in the requisite pink uniform. The only student I recall with real clarity is Ouida Word who’s green uniform was always perfect; not a wrinkle even at the end of the day. I admired her gentle demeanor, intelligence, beauty, and concern for others—qualities she maintained throughout her accomplished life. She will be missed; her influence will survive.
Jeanne Cahill, class of ‘53 and ‘07

Mike Raymer

January 17, 2020

Ouida's legacy will live on for years to come as she was such an incredible advocate for teachers and students in her many educational and professional roles. She was a true friend to anyone fortunate enough to meet her.

Terry Lingerfelt

January 3, 2020

Dr.Dickey never missed a chance to stop and talk to any student or person know matter where she was or how busy ! I never missed a chance to talk with her if I was in vicinity of her ! She will be missed by so many people !

Ellen Heher

January 3, 2020

Dear Angela and Jennifer,

I adored your parents so much.

God bless their beautiful souls and God bless the two of you as you carry on their legacy.

Ps. Loved reading this account of such an INCREDIBLE woman.