Penny Helen Stewart

Penny Helen Stewart, Ph.D., born Emma Helen Stewart, passed away at the age of 87 on July 20, 2017. She was born at home on June 25, 1930, in Jasper County, Mississippi. Penny was known for her humor and enthusiastic approach to life and for her fast, funny, and intellectual thoughts when conversing with friends and family. She enjoyed writing, reading, teaching, and traveling nationally and internationally. As a young girl during the Depression, she and her family moved many times throughout Mississippi and South Alabama. In elementary and secondary school, Penny skipped two grades and graduated from Moss Point High School at the young age of 16. It was in Moss Point where she grew to love life near the water. In 1950 she graduated from Mississippi Southern College, now University of Southern Mississippi, with a double major in English and Spanish. In 1951 she also traveled throughout the United States while working with the Methodist Church Youth Caravan. Penny earned a master's degree in religious education from Scarritt College in Nashville, Tennessee in 1953. After graduating from Scarritt College, she began working for the Women's Society of the United Methodist Church and did missionary work in South America, where she taught English from 1953 to 1957 at the Collegio Americano in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Her adventures in Brazil even took her down the Amazon River on a small riverboat. On another leg of that same trip, she made her way on a wood burning train to Iguazu Falls. She recently recounted sitting with her companions on the edge of the waterfalls where they dangled their feet! In 1957 she began teaching at the University of Southern Mississippi Latin American Institute, and in 1959, she married Edward Alexander Currie, Jr. of Hattiesburg Mississippi. They had three daughters. While teaching at the Latin American Institute and raising a family, she also completed her comprehensive exams for her doctorate work. In 1973 she and her daughters moved to Portales, New Mexico, where she worked as a professor at Eastern New Mexico University. In 1976 she received her Ph.D. from the University of Southern Mississippi after completing her dissertation, Linguistics Signals to Ethnic Groups and Socioeconomic Class. She continued to teach Linguistics and English at ENMU until 1995. One of her greatest passions was teaching the English language to foreign students who attended the university from all over the world. Later in her career, Penny was the co-founder of the High Plains Writing Project, a site of the National Writing Project. Following retirement, she was named Distinguished Emeritus Faculty by the Eastern New Mexico University Foundation for her contributions to academia. She coauthored one book of poetry, Voices of Three Women in 1998 and two novels, When Least Expected in 2005 followed by Under The Surface in 2015.

While in Portales, she met and married her second husband Dick Fawcett who also taught at ENMU. They moved to Kerrville, Texas, after retirement. After his death, she moved to Odessa, Texas, to live near her eldest daughter. In 2012 she moved to Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, to be close to her youngest daughter and again live near the water. Throughout the years, she also enjoyed traveling to visit her middle daughter in New Orleans and Atlanta.

Penny is survived by her three daughters, Helen Currie Husband (Jon Husband) of Odessa, Texas; Susan Currie of New Orleans, Louisiana; and Millibeth Currie (Bill Basco) of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina; and her stepdaughter, Richelle Fawcett Longo of Billings, Montana. She is also survived by her four grandchildren, Sam Husband, Adelaide Basco, Will Basco, and Emmeline Basco and her sister, Millie Stewart Mennard of Winchester, Virginia. She will be forever remembered by her nieces and nephews and other extended family. A memorial service will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, please send contributions to the Eastern New Mexico University Foundation, 1500 S Ave K, Portales, NM 88130, the Medical University of South Carolina's Comprehensive Stroke Center, 268 Calhoun Street, MSC 182, Charleston, SC 29425-1820 or the American Cancer Society, 5900 Core Road, Suite 504, N. Charleston, SC 29406. A memorial message may be sent online at