Dr. Mary Gayle Pifer

Founding Mother of the UW-L TESOL Minor and ESL Institute

Obituary from the La Crosse Tribune

Mary Gayle Pifer of La Crosse peacefully fell asleep following a brief illness on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2006, at Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center in La Crosse.

Mary Gayle was born in Fort Worth, Texas, to James Lois and Gayle Dillin Loveless on Nov. 3, 1932. She was raised in Hutchinson, Kan., where she attended Hutchinson High School. Mary Gayle graduated from Kansas University in Lawrence, Kan., and then returned to Hutchinson High School as a teacher of French and drama. Later, Mary Gayle earned her master's degree in music at the University of Colorado in Boulder. She earned a doctor of philosophy in French from Kansas University. Mary Gayle was a member of the Pi Delta Phi, the National French honors society. In 1974, Dr. Pifer joined the faculty of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse as a professor of French in the Modern Language Department. She ultimately served several terms as the chairwoman of that department. Her commitment to higher education is evidenced by her post-doctoral work at both Yale University and University of Minnesota.

She was a leader at ­UW-La Crosse in developing the English as a Second Language for Educators program, in part to meet the clear needs in local schools to respond to the new immigrant populations from Southeast Asia. Dr. Pifer worked with both the school systems and with local agencies to strengthen the services provided to the Hmong community.

In addition, Dr. Pifer was a leader in the development of the Amity program at UW-La Crosse, which annually brings to the university a minimum of five advanced students from different international cultures and languages to work with university students. Dr. Pifer was also instrumental in working with the university to bring international scholars from diverse countries, including Norway, China and Latvia to campus.

One of Dr. Pifer's more significant contributions to UW-La Crosse was the implementation of the Institute of English as a Second Language. Dr. Pifer contributed to the continued development of a global perspective and understanding by introducing the campus and the community to multiple international cultures through the institute.

On Nov. 21, 1991, Dr. Pifer was named Outstanding Woman of the Year by the YWCA for her contributions in promoting multi-cultural relations. In addition to her commitment to higher education, Mary Gayle was a loving mother, daughter and friend.

She is survived by her daughter, Gayle Roenbaugh; and her two beloved Cocker Spaniels, Danny and Maggie. She was preceded in death by her mother, father and one brother.

Services will be held in Mary Gayle's beloved Fort Worth, Texas. Memorials may be given to the Mary Gayle Pifer Scholarship Fund at UW-La Crosse or the St. Claire Health Mission in La Crosse.

A local celebration of Mary Gayle's life will be held Nov. 4, on the occasion of her birthday, at 4 p.m. at Loons on La Crosse in Howie's Hof Brau, 1120 La Crosse St., La Crosse.

Blaschke &Schneider Funeral Home of La Crosse assisted the family with arrangements.