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In Memoriam: Cecilia Welna
Cecilia “Ceil” Welna, professor emerita of mathematics, former dean of the College of Education, Nursing and Health Professions (ENHP) and the College of Arts and Sciences, and a beloved faculty member for more than four decades, died at her home in Kensington, Conn., on March 8. She was 84.
Welna was part of the fabric of the University of Hartford from its founding in 1957 right up to the present day. She began teaching mathematics in 1956 at Hillyer College, one of the three schools that merged in 1957 to form the University of Hartford. While she retired as a full-time faculty member in 1993, she continued teaching for many more years, and she had been serving as co-chair of the Emeriti Association at the time of her death.
Among her many achievements, Welna was a long-time chair of the Mathematics Department; she served as dean of ENHP (formerly known as the College of Education and Allied Services) from 1982 to 1991; and during some of that time she also served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. In addition, she served as a University regent from 1972 to 1974.
In 1980, Welna became the first-ever recipient of the Roy E. Larsen Award for Excellence in Teaching, the University’s highest teaching honor. The award is presented each year at Commencement.
Born in New Britain, Conn., Welna graduated from Saint Joseph College in 1949 with a BS in mathematics. She went on to earn an MA in mathematics and a PhD in statistics and education from the University of Connecticut. Welna taught at UConn (1950-55) and at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (1955-56), before beginning her decades-long career at the University of Hartford.
“Ceil Welna will always be a Hartford hero, a leader of the University since shortly after its founding, a favorite teacher and role model to literally thousands of alumni, and a dear friend to hundreds of faculty and staff over the years,” said University President Walter Harrison. “Despite her many accomplishments and successes, she lived her life with modesty, warmth, and caring. I join her thousands of friends in celebrating a life well lived.”
“It is hard to imagine the University of Hartford without Ceil Welna, who has been part of this institution since its inception,” said Associate Professor of Mathematics Joel Kagan, one of Welna’s longtime colleagues. “While she chose to stay out of the limelight and refused fanfare for what she did, there is no question that Ceil Welna had a profound impact on the University of Hartford and touched many lives over the years. She was a gifted teacher and a tireless leader who got the job done. She was loved and respected by her students and colleagues, leaving a real legacy.
“Ceil Welna was my model for the importance of caring about students, faculty, staff, colleagues, and the University of Hartford, values that have guided my career,” Kagan said. “I will miss her.”
Ed Weinswig, professor emeritus of curriculum and instruction, ENHP, said that Welna’s students “always profited from her knowledge, skill and, most of all, her patience in helping students overcome their fears of math. She spent many private hours tutoring them to achieve in their math courses and building their confidence that they would and could succeed.”
Weinswig said that he and Welna taught classes for educators in the U.S. Virgin Islands under a federal grant. “It was an enlightening experience to observe how skillfully she was able to create an enthusiasm for new instructional techniques in math. Her teaching style transmitted a confidence to the participants that they, too, could bring a joy of math to their classes.”
“She was very important to the University,” said Professor Emerita of English Virginia Hale, who also serves as secretary of the Emeriti Association. When Hale joined the faculty in 1968, she saw Welna as a role model at a time when female faculty members – especially at the level of full professor – were rare.
“She made her presence felt,” Hale said of Welna. “She was not a strident voice, but she was a steady voice. She knew when to speak up, and when she did, people listened.” Welna played an important role in building the Mathematics Department in the department’s early years, Hale said.
Peter Breit, professor emeritus of politics and government, said that Welna was a steadying presence through decades of growth and change at the University. “She was a fine teacher and mathematician, and a fine faculty colleague,” Breit said. “She set the pace for us. She taught us not to take things too seriously, but also not to overlook opportunities for improvement for ourselves as faculty and for the University as an institution.
“She grew with the University, and the University grew with and because of her,” Breit said.
Calling hours will be held today (Monday, March 12,) from 5 to 8 p.m. at Porter's Funeral Home, 111 Chamberlain Highway, Kensington
Funeral services will be held Tuesday (March 13) at 8:30 a.m. from Porter's Funeral Home, with a Mass of Christian burial at 9:30 a.m. at Sacred Heart Church, 158 Broad Street, New Britain. Burial will be in Sacred Heart Cemetery, New Britain.
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be sent to the Dr. Cecilia Welna Endowed Memorial Scholarship Fund at the University of Hartford, c/o Ms. Toni Robinson, Institutional Advancement, 200 Bloomfield Ave., West Hartford, CT 06117.
See Welna's obituary in the Hartford Courant, and leave online condolences.