Published March 29, 2017
Mary B. Cassata, a longtime faculty member of the Department of Communication who was a leading authority on the academic analysis of soap operas, died Monday after a brief illness.
Cassata began her career at UB as a librarian in 1965, a post she held until 1969 when she became assistant director of public services in University Libraries. In 1975, she transferred to the recently formed communication department as a visiting associate professor.
At the time, Cassata did not watch soap operas. But she tuned in because she was assigned to teach a mass communication course, and she wanted to familiarize herself with the programs, which at the time were a growing phenomenon.
Her groundbreaking 1983 co-authored book, “Life on Daytime Television: Tuning-In American Serial Drama,” brought into focus the social impact of the TV daytime serial. Cassata also founded at UB Project Daytime, a long-term research project examining the message systems and influence of daytime dramas.
She also co-wrote two commercially published books: “The Young and the Restless: Most Memorable Moments,” in 1996, and “The Young and the Restless, Special Silver Anniversary Collector's Edition” in 1998.
While her research interests broadly related to the role the media play in society, more specifically they focused on cultural indicators relating to soap operas. For example, institutional policy analysis, message systems analysis and cultivation analysis.
Cassata also taught courses on the growth and development of the media; mass communication theory; media ethics, issues and controversies; social effects of the media, media literacy; and cultural indicators of daytime television.
“It is a sad time for all of us who knew Mary well. She touched so many lives at UB as a colleague, educator and friend. She was a pioneer in the social scientific research of daytime serial dramas, examining their content, issues and audience,” said Vivian Williams, assistant to the chair in academic services and director of internships in the Department of Communication, who considered Cassata a mentor and close friend.
Williams continued: “Her soap opera courses were renowned. Mary’s remarkable humor, kindness and grace was ingrained. She was a beloved friend to all of us.”
Cassata earned a bachelor’s degree from UB, a master’s degree in library sciences from SUNY Geneseo, and a PhD from Indiana University. She retired from UB in 2012 but remained an associate professor emerita. She was honored last fall for more than 50 years of service to UB.
Her family will receive friends from 2-8 p.m. Thursday at Amigone Funeral Home, 2600 Sheridan Drive, Tonawanda. A Mass of Christian Burial celebration will follow on Friday.