Mother of dance program leaves legacy of action and success

Evan Dierlam

Houstonian Editor

The lights dimmed on the dance floor and the music faded with the loss of the dance department matriarch, Mary Ella Montague.

Montague, an 82-year-old former professor emeritus of dance, died Monday morning after suffering a stroke. She had been in Conroe Regional Hospital for a week for a broken pelvis and shoulder resulting from a fall after an aerobics class she taught.

“Her most significant achievements have been in dance. Under her leadership, the Texas Association of TAHPER initiated action to obtain approval by the Texas Education Agency for teacher preparation programs in dance,” said the journal of “Texas Association of Health, Physical Education and Recreation” in an article noting her induction into the academy.

Montague began her career at SHSU as a physical education instructor in 1945 and retired in 1984 from her position as associate dean of the college of arts and science. During her time with the university, she participated in numerous college committees and assisted with activities, including chairing the Fine Arts Festival in 1959. She served as president of the Sam Houston Faculty Club in 1962 and 1963.

“Mary Ella Montague was the original faculty member, and we claim, the matriarch and founder of the dance program here,” said dance program coordinator, Dana Nicolay, in an interview with the “Huntsville Item.”

The legacy of Montague has been passed on to dance students through a scholarship for years and will be awarded to another student after the dance scholarship auditions on Feb. 11. The Montague Dance Scholarship gives $200 or more for a junior, senior and graduate level dance student.

Montague worked as fund raiser for the Community Child Care Center after retirement. She also served on the board of directors for the Sam Houston Folk Festival, was president of the Huntsville Community Theatre, president of Elkins Lake Women’s Golf Association and was a tutor in the Walker County Literacy Program.

Upon awarding her professor emeritus status, the board of regents said, in a resolution adopted in her honor, that “…her many years of service in institutional activities greatly enhanced the mission of the university and her valuable contributions in a variety of positions at Sam Houston State University brought recognition to the school both at the state and national level.”

First Christian Church will hold a memorial service for Montague today at 10 a.m.

For more information on Mary Ella Montague, see the article in the Feb. 1 issue of the “Huntsville Item.”

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