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Sally Anne Scully (1939-2011)

Posted By Administration, Thursday, May 17, 2012

Sally Anne Scully (1939-2011) by David McNeil

Sally Scully, professor emerita of San Francisco State University, died very peacefully at her San Francisco home on April 15, 2011, with her husband, children, and sister attending. The cause was multiple organ failure from metastatic breast cancer, which had first been diagnosed in 1993.

Sally was a member of the SF State history faculty from 1974 to 2005. She did her graduate work at Harvard, where she was among the first female history Ph.D. recipients (1975), writing on lawyers at Paris and Bologna in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. She was particularly proud of her undergraduate years at Smith College (B.A. 1961), where she won the Annual Prize for the outstanding work in History Honors. She was an inspiring role model for a generation of women students and scholars. Before joining the SF State faculty, she also taught at Harvard College, the City College of New York, and the College of the Holy Cross, and held a Robbins Fellowship at the Institute for Medieval Canon Law at the UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law (1972-74).

After a formative visit to Italy, Sally’s main intellectual interests shifted to Renaissance Florence and Venice, whose histories she taught for many years. She received several grants for archival work in Venice, working mainly on the life and times of a seventeenth-century woman who endured three Inquisition trials on charges of witchcraft. She also wrote on Venetian travel literature and Renaissance historiography. Her most recent article (2010) was on "Carnality and the Venetian Inquisition."

In 1981 in Venice she married her husband, David McNeil (now professor emeritus of history at San José State University); their son Trevor McNeil is currently working in the Middle East with the National Democratic Institute. In later years, she and David enjoyed exotic travel, along with frequent stays in their "little stone house" in eastern Tuscany.

At San Francisco State, Sally played leadership roles in Phi Beta Kappa and the United Professors of California. As the first faculty director of the campus Presidential Scholars Program, a post she held from 1996-2002, she created a model "college within a college" program. For the California State University System, she twice directed the overseas campus in Florence (1994-95 and 2002-03). She of course accompanied David when he directed the CSU campus in France (Aix-en-Provence, 1983-84).

Sally had a number of passions, which her international circle of friends found delightful and infectious. She entertained with warmth and elegance, cooked with professional skill and was the very embodiment of "bella figura." She was widely and impressively knowledgeable about art, literature, and jazz. A passionate supporter of movements for social justice, she was often moved to participate in demonstrations. She delighted in her friends (many of them former students) and, even in illness, retained her tremendous sense of humor and interest in the larger world.

In addition to her husband and son, she leaves a daughter, Nadja Jackson, of Los Altos; a sister, Susan Scully Troy of Wellesley MA; a granddaughter; and several nieces and nephews.

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