Donna Kuizenga

Kuizenga, Donna for website onlyDonna Kuizenga, Emerita Professor of French and former Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Massachusetts Boston, died in Milton on February 23 after a twenty-month struggle with cancer.  She was 69 years old and is survived by her husband, George Held, an independent scholar of ancient Greek literature, two brothers-in-law and two sisters-in-law and their children and grandchildren, and an extensive network of colleagues and friends in Massachusetts, Vermont, and Missouri, as well as the international community of scholars of French literature and culture.

During a 46-year career as a scholar in seventeenth-century French literature and women’s studies Dr. Kuizenga held tenured positions at the University of Missouri-Columbia, where she was director of graduate studies in Romance Languages, and the University of Vermont, where she chaired Romance Languages for five years and served as associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences from 1995-2004.  She also taught at Adelphi University, Brooklyn College, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the Universität des Saarlandes in Saarbrücken, Germany.  She came to Boston in 2004 and held the position of Dean of Liberal Arts from 2004-2011; she retired in 2014.

Dr. Kuizenga earned her B.A. from Adelphi and her Ph.D. from the City University of New York.  As literary critic, editor, and translator she was the author of three books, most recently an edition and translation of Madame de Villedieu’s groundbreaking novel, The Memoirs of Henriette-Sylvie de Molière (the University of Chicago Press).  Her work in French studies, comparative literature, women’s studies, and pedagogy appeared in more than forty articles and book chapters.

Dr. Kuizenga served on the editorial boards of several scholarly journals devoted to French studies and was elected to a four-year term as president of the Societé d’analyse de la Topique Romanesque.  She held memberships in and made presentations to numerous professional organizations including the Modern Language Association, the North American Society for French Seventeenth Century Studies, the National Women’s Studies Association, and the American Association of Teachers of French.

Her colleagues in the College of Liberal Arts dean’s office and the department chairs with whom she regularly worked both collectively and individually knew her remarkable work ethic.  Less well-known was her lifelong interest in and talent for music.  As a skilled amateur flutist she participated for many years in the Composers Conference, an annual summer chamber music workshop at Wellesley College.  John Ranck, Assistant Director of the Composers Conference and principal flute with the Melrose Symphony, remembers how “Donna’s love of chamber music and great spirit and attitude inspired everyone who knew her.”  In retirement she continued to expand her range with the flute and took up a second instrument, the viola.

As Dean of Liberal Arts at UMass Boston, Dr. Kuizenga presided over the rebuilding of the college’s faculty with the largest number of hirings since the late 1960s.  As retired professor of Political Science and former Associate Dean Jack Spence recalled, she was a master of detail and known as an extraordinarily astute and perceptive interviewer.  While she scrupulously avoided pressuring academic departments to hire her favored candidates, she made the incisive notes from her own interviews available as a resource for department hiring committees.

Department chairs in the College of Liberal Arts found that Dean Kuizenga had high expectations for their performance but also that her leadership style was consultative and collaborative, and leavened by a lively wit and deep empathy.  She devoted energy and resources to bolstering the work and enhancing the morale of the growing cadre of new faculty in the College.  English professor Matthew Brown described her as “a remarkably thoughtful, deliberate, informed, and supportive Dean, especially to junior faculty.”

During her deanship Dr. Kuizenga inaugurated a number of new programs including the Ph.D. in Developmental and Brain Science, the M.F.A. in Creative Writing, the M.A. in Historical Archeology, the M.A. in Applied Economics, and new undergraduate majors in Asian Studies and Communications.  She founded the interdisciplinary Research Center for Urban Cultural History and was deeply involved in the planning for the university-wide Institute for New England Native American Studies and the Developmental Sciences Research Center.  Emerita Professor of Psychology and former Dean of Graduate Studies Joan Liem called Dr. Kuizenga “a leader among Deans and a truly strong advocate for the liberal arts within the Deans’ Council.”  She leaves a rich legacy in programs, personnel, and best administrative practices to the College and the University.

She wished to thank the Neurology and Oncology units at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the Seasons Hospice for excellent care.  Interment will be private.  A memorial service will be held at UMass Boston at a later date.  Memorial contributions may be made to the Composers Conference, PO Box 5507, Wayland MA 01778, or the Milton Animal League, 181 Governor Stoughton Ln, Milton MA 02186.