As a fourth-generation Texan, Dachiell Rowdon has always had a special place in her heart for the state. However, it was her late husband Maurice Rowdon’s connection with the Lone Star State that inspired her estate gift to The University of Texas at Austin.
Dachiell spent two years as a fine arts major at the university. “I enjoyed UT immensely, all the more because as a sophomore I met and fell in love with a young Austinite, Matt Berry. We became engaged. But family intervened, and I ended up continuing my education at the University of Poitiers in France.”
Maurice completed “The Ape of Sorrows” weeks before his death. The following year, Dachiell shared his book with the public.
Born into a working-class London family in 1922, he was awarded a scholarship to Oxford University, where he earned a degree in modern history. He then entered World War II as a forward observation officer in the Italian campaign.
As part of the British infantry assigned to the United States Fifth Army, Maurice crossed paths with the Texas 36th Infantry and his heart went out to them — and theirs to him. Maurice never forgot their humor and soft drawls, nor did he forget their tragic Rapido River crossing, in which so many were lost during their failed push to Rome.
After the war, Maurice embraced life and the endless opportunities it held. He earned a second degree at Oxford in modern greats, specializing in philosophy, and taught at Baghdad University. He became an expert in Italian civilization and wrote several published books on the subject, as well as a guidebook on Umbria. He also created writings on 18th-century Venice that were commissioned by the BBC for a television special.
In the late 1970s, Maurice developed his own breathing system, Oxygenesis, based on his studies of Eastern philosophy and yoga. He established a thriving practice in California. This breathing system brought him and Dachiell together.
I feel so fortunate to have found these wonderful people at The University of Texas to help my dream for Maurice come true.
She reflected, “My emphasis in life had switched from art to health because mine was declining. I had gone to California looking for new ways to cope and was introduced to Maurice. Under his guidance, both through his breathing technique and his original thought, I received the tools I needed — not only to manage my illness, but also to change my life perspective.”
Maurice and Dachiell’s relationship grew until the two were married. Dachiell jokes that part of the reason he was attracted to her was because she was a Texan, and as much of an animal lover as he was. The couple spent 25 years together before Maurice passed away in 2009.
“I remained in London and set about organizing his archive,” Dachiell said. “Maurice had some 40 years of writing before we met.
“I wanted to ensure that his archive was safeguarded. His thought about our species remains avant-garde now, given the state of the planet and the discord on it due to human activity. His last work, ‘The Ape of Sorrows,’ was the culmination of his lifetime inquiry into what we human beings are as a species.”
Right: Dachiell and Matt married in 2017 and split their time between Europe and Austin until the pandemic, when they decided to stay in Austin.
As much as Dachiell wanted to preserve his work, she wasn’t sure how to go about it. That is when her Texas past came into play through Matt, BBA ’68, her once-upon-a-time UT fiancé.
“He found me in London. We hadn’t seen or spoken to each other in 49 years. Matt had enjoyed a successful career and happy marriage with a wonderful woman, and together they raised four lovely children. When his wife passed away, he put out a search for me. And when we finally met, it was like we were kids again — only now we both had white hair and wrinkles,” Dachiell said.
Matt knew it was important to Dachiell to preserve Maurice’s work, and encouraged her to reach out to the university. “At UT I was introduced to David Sosa, the chair of the philosophy department, who took me on a tour of Waggener Hall. The whole atmosphere seemed a perfect fit. I established an endowed excellence fund to support the department, and hope to eventually create a distinguished professorship. The university is also digitizing Maurice’s archive. That is hugely important to me and, I hope, to others,” Dachiell shared.
“I feel Maurice would be delighted about how I am honoring him. The existential questions the department is asking and studying are so vital to this troubled epoch. The students are learning how to think well outside of any boxes. Maurice, a hugely inquisitive thinker, would like that. I feel so fortunate to have found these wonderful people at The University of Texas to help my dream for Maurice come true.”
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Texas Leader Magazine
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