Provost Peggy Agouris sent the following message to the campus community on Aug. 2, 2022. – Ed.
I write to share the news that Elaine M. Themo, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, died July 19, 2022. The only child of Alice Crossland and Andrew Themo, Elaine was born in 1938 in Newton, Massachusetts, where she spent her childhood. Following graduation from Mount Holyoke College with a B.A. degree in cultural anthropology, she earned a Masters in sociology from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a Ph.D. in Latin American studies and cultural anthropology from the American University School of International Service.
In 1966 she joined the William & Mary faculty as an assistant professor of Sociology, one of very few women professors in that department at that time. At age 28, and among the youngest instructors, Professor Themo was a sought after member of a number of departmental and university-wide committees. Well regarded as a teacher, she was also a vibrant role model and mentor to women undergraduates, and served as the faculty advisor for Women’s Equality, the ﬁrst campus-wide student group established to articulate and advocate feminist issues and goals.
Following her retirement from William & Mary in 2000, Elaine was able to assume a more active role in the wider community. She was elected to the board of directors for the Williamsburg Area League of Women Voters and for several years she co-chaired the Great Decisions program sponsored by the League. As a member of the board for the Christopher Wren Program for Lifelong Learning (now Osher Lifelong Learning Institute), she coordinated a series of “Town & Gown” lunchtime lectures and taught a popular course on Jane Austen from a sociological perspective. She served on the board for the Williamsburg Chamber Music Society and was a passionate supporter of the Virginia Symphony Orchestra and WHRO public radio and television. After moving to the Williamsburg Landing retirement community in 2014, Elaine led a new lecture series on political and cultural aﬀairs called “Now Hear This,” and was elected to the Landing’s Residents’ Council.
Professor Themo was a generous donor to her alma mater and an array of organizations dedicated to service and the arts and made major gifts toward the building of Williamsburg’s Hospice House and Williamsburg Landing’s Adult Daycare Center, as well as the expansion of the Heritage Humane Society’s animal shelter.
Elaine Themo is survived by many friends who remember her love of music and all the arts, her love of travel and wonderful laugh. A gathering to celebrate her life will be held in the fall. Remembrances can be made online at Bucktrout of Williamsburg.