Valeen “Val” Avery, former history professor, dies at 69

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Valeen “Val” Tippetts Avery, a retired professor of history at Northern Arizona University, died Friday, April 7, 2006. She was 69.

Dr. Avery taught history at NAU for 22 years, retiring from the university in 2005.

She began her career at NAU in 1983 as a professor of history specializing in the American Southwest and Mormon history.

In 1984, Dr. Avery co-authored with Linda King Newell Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, and in 1998 she wrote From Mission to Madness: The Last Son of the Mormon Prophet. Both biographies won Utah State University’s prestigious Evans Biography Award for Best Western Biography.

“She was bold and revered as a scholar of Mormon history,” said Provost Liz Grobsmith. “She was a very spirited Western frontier devotee and was deeply engaged in Western history.”

Cynthia Kosso, chair of the history department, noted that while Dr. Avery was a prizewinning author and an expert in many facets of American history, her teaching was her greatest contribution to the university.

“Val touched the lives of many thousands of students here,” Kosso said. “Her teaching was tremendously influential, energetic, interactive, eye-opening, and even life-changing for some students.”

Students demonstrated their mutual respect for Dr. Avery when they selected her as the 2001 Homecoming Dedicatee.

“Val had a passion about her students and wanted to make a difference in their lives,” Grobsmith said. “Her commitment to them is her greatest legacy to NAU.”

Dr. Avery earned her bachelor’s degree from Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Mont., in 1959. She earned her master’s and doctoral degrees in history from NAU in 1981 and 1983 respectively.

She was preceded in death by her husband Bryan Short, who taught English at NAU for 36 years and served as special assistant to President John Haeger. Short died in 2003.

She is survived by her daughter Maureen (Brian) Meyer; sons Christopher (Nancy), Nathan (Annette) and Thad (Laura); by Short’s daughter, Lisa (Bernhard) Fritsch and son Raymond, and 11 grandchildren. She is also survived by sisters Shirley Haynes, Sharon Rammell, Linda Tippetts, Julie Tippetts, and a brother, Allen Tippetts.

There will be a celebration of Dr. Avery’s life at 4 p.m. April 13 at the Arizona Snowbowl’s Hart Prairie Lodge. An endowment in her name has been established through the NAU Foundation, P.O. Box 4094, Flagstaff, AZ 86011-4094.