Professor emerita Jane Gentry Vance passed away on Thursday afternoon after a year-long battle with cancer. This is terribly sad news to everyone who knew her or was taught by her, especially her colleagues in the English Department and the Honors Program, where she taught for forty years before retiring in 2013. While this is a dismaying day, it’s also worthwhile to pause and celebrate Jane, and to remember fondly her warmth, her wry humor, her graciousness, and her many accomplishments as a poet and faculty member.
Jane graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Hollins College in 1963, joined the University of Kentucky in 1972, published two books of poetry, a chapbook, and over 100 other poems, and taught creative writing to thousands of students. Always a favorite of her students, Jane won the Alumni Association’s Great Teacher Award. For her poetry, the state of Kentucky honored her by naming her Poet Laureate in 2007-08, and the College awarded her its own highest honor, induction into the A&S Hall of Fame, in 2013.
As a poet, Jane wrote with insight and grace of family, of the intricacies of our emotions, and of the ironies of everyday life. Her moving and elliptical poetry gave us new ways to think about life’s complexities, often with a dash of ironic humor. As a colleague, Jane used her sympathy and shrewdness for good. Generous and big-hearted, she was both compassionate and possessed of a clear-eyed sense of justice. We miss her way with words and we miss her thoughtfulness.
Jeff Clymer, Chairperson, Department of English
Mark Lawrence Kornbluh, Dean, College of Arts and Sciences