Cover photo for Mary Brennan's Obituary
Mary Brennan Profile Photo
1937 Mary 2022

Mary Brennan

February 8, 1937 — April 22, 2022

Madison:  Mary Alice “Buff” Brennan was born on February 8,1937 and died on April 22, 2022, due to complications from a fall. She was professor emerita of the Department of Dance at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she had been on the faculty since 1967. During those years she chaired the dance program on 3 separate occasions.

Buff grew up in Oak Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. She began her teaching career at Rosary College in River Forest, Illinois where she was head of the Department of Physical Education for 8 years. In 1966 she came to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she ultimately received both a Master’s degree and a Ph.D. in Dance. She also became certified in movement analysis through the Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies in New York in 1983.

Her scholarly articles on creativity in dance and the movement analysis of dance have appeared in numerous journals, such as the Journal of Creative Behavior, the Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, and Perceptual Motor Skills. In 1985 she was named the National Dance Association Scholar. Twice she was a Fulbright Scholar to India.

Dr. Brennan was also a prolific contributor to the growth of dance as a field. She reviewed grants for the Wisconsin Arts Board for 5 years, was on the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission, and the National Commission on National Dance Education Standards. She consulted on dance curriculum guidelines for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. She was president of the Board of Directors of the Hancock Center for Dance/Movement Therapy from 2010 to 2013. She received the National Dance Association Presidential Award for Service in 1993, the Wisconsin Dance Council Research and Journalism Award in 1996, and the National Dance Association Award for Contributions to the Field of Dance Technology in 1999.

Buff often acknowledged that she had been born and raised during an extraordinary time of the twentieth century- a time which allowed her to live a wonderful life of dancing, teaching, researching, and traveling around the world.

She would have been pleased to learn that her extensive philanthropic contributions to the UW Dance Department had qualified her to be a member of the UW’s prestigious Van Hise Society. Faculty and students will benefit from her generosity well into the future. With other members of the Society, her portrait will hang in the lobby of the UW Foundation,1848 University Avenue.

But those of us fortunate to have been her friends will remember her for her sense of adventure and fun and for the many kindnesses she bestowed upon us.

Buff arranged for a cremation years ago, and did not want a memorial service.

Please share your memories at

Cress Center

6021 University Ave. Madison

(608) 238-8406

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Mary Brennan, please visit our flower store.


Visits: 32

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the
Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Service map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

Send Flowers

Send Flowers

Plant A Tree

Plant A Tree