Edna Louise (Dillon) Tillis, 84, of Amherst, retired assistant to the dean of the School of Nursing, died at home Sept. 8 after a long illness.
She was born in Houston, where she attended school.
She met her husband, Frederick Tillis, at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, in 1946, where they were both pursuing bachelor’s degree’s in music. She graduated from Wiley in 1950 and shortly thereafter, they were married.
During the early years of their marriage, Louise taught music in elementary schools in Texas while Frederick continued teaching at Wiley College. He obtained his master's degree in music from the University of Iowa in 1952 and then joined the Air Force during the Korean conflict. She taught music at elementary schools in Texas while Frederick was in the service from 1952-55. After he left the service, Frederick resumed his studies at the University of North Texas College of Music on the G.I. Bill. At Louise’s suggestion and encouragement, the couple then returned to Iowa for Frederick to complete his doctorate in music composition from the University of Iowa. During those years, Louise taught management courses at the University of Iowa.
After completing his doctorate in 1963, Frederick’s next academic appointment was at Grambling College in Louisiana, where they started a family in 1964. Louise also held a position as the assistant to the dean of Grambling College. The family then moved again to Louisville, Ky., in 1967 where Louise was assistant to the dean at Kentucky State University while Frederick was on the faculty as the head of the music department. In 1970, Frederick was recruited to UMass Amherst by his former University of Iowa professor and mentor, Philip Bezanson, to initiate a jazz studies program. Louise continued her administrative career first at Smith College as assistant to the class deans in 1972 and then as chief administrator in the dean’s office at the School of Health Sciences at UMass in 1974. She remained at the school after it was reorganized into both Public Health and Nursing, becoming executive administrator in the dean’s office of the School of Nursing for seven years until her retirement in 1995.
"Louise Tillis was a valued member of the campus community and fondly remembered by those who knew her," said Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy. "Over her more than two decades of service, she contributed to the success of our public health and nursing programs."
She leaves her husband, Frederick C. Tillis, daughters Patricia of Fort Pierce, Fla., and Pamela of New York City, a son-in-law, two nieces, two great-nieces and two great nephews and a great-great nephew.
A funeral will be held Friday, Sept. 13 at 11 a.m. at the Douglass Funeral Home, 87 North Pleasant St. Burial will be at Wildwood Cemetery.
The family welcomes flowers or if desired, contributions may be made in Louise’s memory to her alma mater Wiley College under the Dr. Frederick and Edna Louise Tillis Scholarship at Wiley College in support of students majoring in music, 711 Wiley Ave., Marshall, TX 75670.