“Everybody remembers me because my students walk across the stage so many times at commencement,” Casey says. “That’s where my work is manifest. In case anybody didn’t know what I was doing with my time, there it is.”
But the spring 2014 commencement was her last. Casey, who is retiring, hooded the Rev. Dr. Otto Harris and will now move on, leaving her legacy to her former students, many of whom are now professors.
“I have worked with so many wonderful students. They’ve had life experiences and they work hard. It’s really one of the ways they make sense of the world; they come out wanting to make that world a better place, ” she says, seated in her living room across from a framed print her co-workers gave her as a retirement gift. It’s a Japanese woodcut called “Tree of Dreams”.
Casey’s dreams are summed up in the doctoral students she has coached and mentored over the years. She remembers the blood, sweat and tears that went into each dissertation. A study of first-generation high school graduates in a cotton mill village. Studies of Liberian refugee women and rural women art educators. Even a study of teaching disenfranchised students through wrestling.
Casey brought an innovative style of research to UNCG’s School of Education when she was hired. Called narrative research, it draws on individual stories to examine educational issues.
“You are only allowed to ask one question: ‘Tell me the story of your life,’” she says. “I’ve had a good time. I’ve never heard a boring life story.”
Her own life story began in New York. It took her to England and Nigeria, then back to the University of Wisconsin-Madison for her PhD.
And Casey’s story is far from over. She remains a busy social activist, sits on the board of Beloved Community Center and attends Faith Community Church.
“I love UNCG, but I also love Greensboro,” she says. “I think my retirement project is going to be serving on the Interim Civilian Police Review Committee.”
By Michelle Hines.
Photo by David Wilson. Casey hoods Otto Harris, May 9, 2014
Story originally in UNCG Now.