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Mary Ann Witt has been Dancing for Decades

By Linda Moore

“Slow slow quick quick!” Thus began Mary Ann Frese Witt’s instructions to her Croasdaile dancers on the cha cha in the Ballroom Dance groups on Wednesday nights at 7:00 p.m. in Ponder Multipurpose Room.

Mary Ann began dancing lessons when she was twelve years old and has continued her love of dancing her whole life. In the Croasdaile dance group Norman Pendergraft, retired Professor of Art History at N. C. Central University, and Mel Denis, an avid dancer, comes to help out. Other dances include the waltz, swing, rhumba, and tango. Mary Annencourages other CV residents to dance saying, “It’s fun, good exercise, easy to learn basic steps.”

Mary Ann is famous at Croasdaile for her skill in ballroom dancing, but there is so much more to her story. She grew up in Washington, D.C., moved to Massachusetts in1956, majored in French at Wellesley College, earned a M.A. in French at the University of California- Berkeley, and received her Ph. D. in Comparative Literature from Harvard University. She was an assistant professor of French at Wellesley College; a visiting professor of English and World Literature at North Carolina Central University; and professor of French, Italian, and World Literature at North Carolina State University. She has authored books and articles on twentieth century French and Comparative Literature as well as being controlling author of a textbook entitled, The Humanities: Cultural Roots and Continuities.

Mary Ann met her husband, Ronald G. Witt, a Renaissance History scholar and a terrific dancer, at a dance at Harvard in 1964 and married him in Cambridge, MA, in 1965. Ron and Mary Ann read and spoke French, Italian, and German. Ron worked on texts which were mostly in Latin, which he read fluently. He was invited to come to Duke in 1971, where he became Distinguished Professor of Medieval and Renaissance History. Ron and Mary Ann, along with their children, were fortunate to spend sabbatical years doing research in Paris, France and Florence and Rome, Italy.

In 2015 the couple came to Croasdaile Village. Ron retired in 2004; Mary Ann retired as Professor Emerita of Italian, French, and Comparative Literature at NC State in 2007, although she directed summer seminars on Modern French Theater for high school teachers in Avignon, France until 2014. In 2017, at age 84, Ronald G. Witt passed away. Ron and Mary Ann have three children and four grandchildren.