Novelist Marshall Terry, best known as 'Mr. SMU' for his 50 years with school, dies at 85

Terry died Christmas Eve of complications from Parkinson's disease. He was 85. Funeral services had not been set as of Monday morning.

By Tasha Tsiaperas
Staff Writer

SMU English Professor Emeritus Marshall TerryMarshall Terry would put his daughters to sleep by singing the Southern Methodist University school song, "Varsity," and the fight song, "Peruna."

The creative-writing professor, novelist and university administrator, dubbed "Mr. SMU," worked at the university for 50 years. He played a role in shaping the school, writing its master plan, which honed the university's curriculum and educational philosophy.  

Terry, known as "Marsh" to his friends, wrote a dozen novels and became a fellow with the Texas Institute of Letters. He founded SMU's creative-writing program and the SMU Literary Festival. And he helped generations of students find their literary voices, at least eight of whom have published novels. 

Dallas Morning News readers knew him as a book critic for many years in the 1980s, following the death of famed critic Lon Tinkle. 

Terry died Christmas Eve of complications from Parkinson's disease. He was 85. Funeral services had not been set as of Monday morning. 

Steve Davis, president of the Texas Institute of Letters, shared the news on Facebook, listing Terry's many accomplishments. 

"But above else, Marsh was a wonderful human being: kind, compassionate, funny in his quiet way, insightful, dignified, devoted to his family, always a gentleman," Davis wrote. "He was the sort of person you always looked forward to seeing. His passing is a big loss."

Terry was known for his decades-long dedication to SMU. 

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