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Katharine Aston

June 25, 1917 ~ May 16, 2019 (age 101)

Katharine "Kay" Oline Aston, 101, of Champaign, passed away May 16, 2019, at home at the Inman Place in Champaign. Born in Cambridge, England, on June 25, 1917, Kay was the second daughter of W. O. Aston and Carrie Anderson Aston of Morganville, Kan.

Kay is survived by her cousin, Jobelle Shands of Madison, Wis. Kay was preceded in death by her parents, sister, Mary Aston Tehan and nephew, John Tehan of Springfield, Ohio.

After receiving her Ph.D. from Bryn Mawn in 1958, she was hired to teach in the Department of English at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana (UIUC) in the program of English as a Second Language. She became director of the program in 1959.

Milestones during the 29 years of her academic career showed her in the vanguard of her profession.

Kay was one of the founding members of the international professional organization, Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages in the mid-1960s.

She instituted the MA in TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) at UIUC in 1966.

She created one of the first Minors in TESL in the country, which met the academic and practical requirements for teaching ESL in the public schools of Illinois.

She established off-campus internships in Puerto Rico (1968-75) and Iran (1970-78), and was the director of the latter program in the mid-1970s.

The Katharine O. Aston Award for Outstanding Masters Thesis was established in her honor.

Kay’s dedication to her father’s Catholic faith inspired and motivated her all through her life. For 12 years after her retirement, Kay served as program chair of Church Women United, an ecumenical prayer group that joined forces across the United States several times a year to pray for world peace. Her imaginative programming, presented in many local churches, included dancing by participants directed by Patricia Knowles, with music performed by Gabriel Magyar, former cellist with the Hungarian String Quartet. A diverse array of performers included CWU members, university students, and community students and their families.

Kay was blessed with many dear friends, including Susan Taylor and Rachel Manwell, both UIUC colleagues. She had a number of excellent caregivers, including her longtime friend, Ann Fay-Luster, and wonderful Diversified Health Care staff, all of whom comforted her in the final stage of her life. The caring staff at Inman Place were especially appreciated for the many ways they helped Kay during her residency there.

A funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. at St. John’s Catholic Church on Friday, May 24, 2019, at 10 a.m. at 604 E. Armory Ave., Champaign. Burial will be at St. Mary's Cemetery in Champaign. There will be no visitation.  

In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the charity of your choice.

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