School 36

Mary Ann (Malinchak) Rishel

July 12, 1940 ~ July 25, 2023 (age 83) 83 Years Old


Mary Ann Rishel, Professor Emerita in writing at Ithaca College and former Professor at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, passed away in Ithaca, New York on July 25, 2023, at the age of 83.  The daughter of Michael and Helen (Stash) Malinchak, she was born on July 12, 1940, in McKeesport, Pennsylvania.   She is survived by her husband of 56 years, Thomas.

Mary Ann grew up in McKeesport, graduating from McKeesport High School.  She went on to earn a B.A. (1962) and M. A. (1969) at the University of Pittsburgh, as well as a Master of Fine Arts in writing at Cornell University in 1979, working with James McConkey and Alison Lurie.  A story from her Cornell thesis, “Staus,” was published in the Hudson Review and later included in Best American Short Stories (Houghton Mifflin 1978).  This story was also produced in 1992 for a PBS series Aging in America, as well as being included in Narodny Kalendar, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the National Slovak Society.  Mary Ann also published a number of other short stories; not a braggart, she once claimed that she never submitted a short story that did not get published.  In 2002, Mary Ann published a nonfiction book, Writing Humor: Creativity and the Comic Mind, through Wayne State University Press.

At Ithaca College, Mary Ann taught writing from 1975 until 2002, excepting: the 1984-5 academic year, when she was a fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts; and 1991, when she was on leave at the University of Oregon.  Along with her teaching duties, during her tenure at Ithaca College, she won two all-college teaching awards, served two terms on faculty council, spent two years as faculty development officer, co-wrote the college bylaws, and served on the promotion and tenure committee (chairing in 2021-2).  In 1994, she was president of the International Society for Humor Studies, hosting the 1994 international conference at I.C., which had hundreds of participants from around the world.

Mary Ann retired from I.C. in 2003, leaving Ithaca to take a professorship at WCMC-Q, the Cornell Medical School in Qatar.  From 2003-2012, as the founding coordinator for first-year seminars, during and after which she taught medical humanities, critical analysis and moral epistemologies.

Mary Ann never quit working; her last publication, “For Better or for Worse: A Marriage of Humor and Comedy,” came out in June in a volume, Teaching Comedy, published by the Modern Language Association (2023).  She was attending seminars at Binghamton University until late last year, when illness made her commute too difficult.

Mary Ann loved to travel; she visited over fifty countries and all fifty U.S. States, many of them with Tom.  She was a landed immigrant in Canada for three years; had a resident’s card in Japan for a summer; and later, another residence in Qatar for ten years.  Mary Ann claimed to have given lectures in at least thirty countries.  She had no children, but she leaves numerous cousins, nieces and nephews from McKeesport to Singapore to Vladivostok, and countless former students everywhere.

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