Mary Sleator Temperley (1925-2018) | University of Illinois Archives

Name: Mary Sleator Temperley (1925-2018)

Historical Note:

Mary Sleator Temperley (1925-2018) was an instructor of English at the University of Illinois from 1956-1961, an Assistant Professor from 1969-1970, and a Research Assistant professor from 1973-75 at a time when university nepotism rules kept female scholars from being hired as long as their husbands had faculty status. She returned to the university in 1982 as a Visiting Assistant Professor, and became an Assistant Professor in the Division of English as an International Language from 1985-2001. While an assistant professor at the University of Illinois in 1969-1970, she taught the first courses on transformational grammar and proposed and taught the first course on teaching English as a Second Language (ESL). This course became the basis for the master's program offered by the Division of English as an International Language. Sleator Temperley was a member of the Institute for Communications Research and was a member of the committee that planned the Linguistics Department, which was established in 1965. She published articles on applied linguistics and English language teaching, and is co-author of the book: A Practical Guide to the Teaching of English as a Second or Foreign Language (1978).

Mary Sleator was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan. As her father was a professor of physics and her mother was a schoolteacher, education was highly valued in her family. Sleator received her bachelor's degree in English Literature from Wellesley College (1946) and her master's in English Language and Literature from the University of Michigan (1949). After graduating, she taught English as a Fulbright teacher in Greece for two years. Sleator then received her Ph. D. in linguistics from Indiana University (1957). In 1960, while working at the University of Illinois, Sleator married Nicholas Temperley, who was at the university on a postdoctoral fellowship in music and psychology. Nicholas Temperley later became professor of musicology at the University of Illinois. She moved to Cambridge, UK, with her husband, where she was an extramural lecturer in a course for ESL teachers and a supervisor in linguistics at Cambridge University. After returning from England, Sleator Temperley was the director of the English Program of the "Japanese Bankers Management Training Program" at Bradley University, taught English as a Second Language for the Urbana Adult Education Program, and was a lecturer in workshops for ESL teachers in Chicago and Parkland College in Champaign. While at Parkland, she developed and taught a course in English composition for foreign students. Sleator Temperley returned to the University of Illinois in 1982, and in 1986, was a Visiting Professor of English at Fudan University in Shanghai.

Mary Sleator Temperley died at the age of 93 on April 11, 2018.


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