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Campus community mourns death of history professor

Posted on April 29, 2014

Frances Kelleher, professor of history, died April 21 after a long illness.

Kelleher, who received a doctoral degree in European history from New York University, joined the Grand Valley faculty in 1988.

“She was quickly asked to serve in leadership positions,” said history Professor Emeritus Dennis Devlin, noting she was assistant dean of Arts & Humanities from 1989-1992, acting dean in 1990, and chair of the Department of History from 1992-2001.

“As chair of history, she left an indelible mark on the department with her vision for and devotion to combining high standards and humane practices,” said James Smither, professor of history. “She also drafted the initial plan for the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies, was instrumental in creating the Honors College, and it was her research that led to the first salary equity study at Grand Valley.”

Carolyn Shapiro Shapin, professor and assistant chair in the Department of History, remembers Kelleher’s devotion to what was good for students, the department, the college, the university, and the broader community.  “As she moved from administrative work, she quickly adapted to the digital age in her pedagogy, and was the first member of the department to master the challenges of online courses,” said Shapin. “Fran was teaching until the final weeks of her life.”

Kelleher is survived by her spouse Sue Swartzlander, professor of English and Honors, her siblings and their spouses, as well as many nieces and nephews. A memorial will be held May 10  on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. More information is available here.

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