Katherine “Kate” Chandler, Professor of English, died April 1, 2017, at age 67. Her battle with cancer came to an end after two years.
Her extensive educational background and many publications were not the only accomplishments she achieved. Kate taught us how to grow. She taught us the importance of community, how to love unconditionally, and what it truly meant to embody kindness, compassion, and heart. Her perspective on life and faith continues to inspire all of us. It was a privilege and a joy to know her and learn from her.
Her legacy lives on in our community and our hearts, and the following students, alumn, and professors would like to share their thoughts and memories of our beloved professor.
Condolences to the family may be made at: http://www.brinsfieldfuneral.com.
By Elaine Bucknam ‘16
Psychology and Studio Art double major, minor in Neuroscience
There is an inscription just above the door of the Campus Farm’s greenhouse; it’s a quote from Kate’s writings. “The spirit of the place draws them there, and the connection is personal.” Kate’s warm, openhearted spirit is integral to the spirit of the Farm. For myself and many other students who worked and learned with her there, our connection to Kate and to the Farm is deeply personal. We put that inscription up not quite two years ago–a few weeks after Kate was diagnosed with cancer–as a small thank-you for the immeasurable time, effort, and love she poured into the Farm and into our lives.
It’s humbling to think about the enormous impact Kate had on so many others. The Farm would not be the incredible SMCM institution it is today without Kate. I would not be the person I am today without Kate. She taught me to find life in the compost, awe in the sprouting of seeds, and wonder in the weeds.
By Addie Schlussel ‘17
Biology and Environmental Studies double major
“If I do nothing with my life but make dirt, I will be happy with what I’ve accomplished.”
Since the farm’s establishment, Kate Chandler has been the heart of the farm. She kept the farm alive over the summers when most of us students were no longer around for the season. She taught us how to compost, how to plant, how to make lasagna beds, and how to tell the all-important difference between straw and hay. On a farm that has seen many students come and go, Kate was a constant. And she was a joy to work with. She was an advisor, a teacher, and a friend.
Kate has said on multiple occasions that, even if she did nothing with her life but make dirt, she would be happy with what she’d accomplished. But clearly she accomplished so much more. And for that, we are so, so grateful.
By Georgiana Hardesty ‘19
English and Environmental Studies double major
This time about a year ago, I was visiting our beautiful campus as a newly accepted student. When asked by student leaders what I wanted to study, I told them proudly that I planned to pursue both English and Environmental Studies. A barefoot boy whose name I can’t remember smiled at me, and dropped her name. Apparently I was going for the Kate Chandler major, although I had no idea what that meant at the time. I do now, and I could not be more honored to carry on her legacy here.
As I found a place for myself on campus and learned more and more about the wonderful faculty, I finally figured out who she was when I volunteered at the campus farm. Her name evokes glamour, youth, and grace, and you embodied them in ways I hadn’t expected. After finally meeting her, I felt that I was beginning to understand the kind of person I want to be in my lifetime.
When I spoke with her, I couldn’t help but think of my late grandmother and namesake. I never got to meet her, but I somehow felt uplifted and overwhelmed by her presence in the time I spent with Dr. Chandler. My grandmother was the first in my family to go to college, where she majored in biology and taught it at the high school level. She was an avid gardener and birdwatcher, and an all around loving person from what I’ve been told. One day I hope to be like her, and like Dr. Chandler. I will be forever grateful that I had the opportunity to meet such an inspiring and kind woman, who might have even given me a glimpse at a woman I never got to know.
I hope that Dr. Kate Chandler will be remembered as the kind of woman who was not only strong and inspiring, but soft and kind in a way that could bring people unimaginable comfort in a single conversation.
By Michael S. Glasier
Professor Emeritus of English
Among the many things I continue to treasure about Kate Chandler:
Kate had the courage to follow her own different drummer – which she did with typically demure quietness. She was a beautiful example of the truth of a statement often attributed to Goethe but actually penned by W.H. Murry, the mountaineer and author of The Evidence of Things Not Seen: “Whatever you think you can, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”
By Barry R. Muchnick, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies
Charming. Generous. Gracious. Kind. Funny. Peaceful. Loving. Wise. Deeply Missed.
By Beth Charlebois
Associate Professor of English
I loved Kate Chandler. She was a dear friend, colleague, and one of the most generous and truly kind human beings I will ever know. There are so many stories but one that stands out is from 2011 when the English Department nominated Kate for the Homer L. Dodge Teaching Award, the most distinguished award in teaching at SMCM. Kate won the award and she had to give a speech. In preparation she wrote to each one of us, her colleagues in the department, and asked us to send her excepts from things that our students had written to and about us over the years. And what did she do with those quotes? Her acceptance speech beautifully wove them together, thereby honoring us and the relationships that are forged between teachers and students here at St. Mary’s. She basically gave the award back to us! That was pure Kate Chandler. She never sought credit or praise but rather made it her goal to find ways to make other people shine and flourish. (This tribute in the The Point News would make her squirm!)
By Jeffrey Hammond
Professor of English
It’s difficult to convey the respect and affection that the English faculty had for Kate Chandler. She was a wonderful friend and a stimulating colleague: smart, funny, and kind. One aspect of my friendship with her was our shared interest in religion. While I had an outsider’s view of it as a literary historian, Kate knew it from the inside, as a believer. Over the years we had many conversations about religion, and despite our differences, they were always great fun. Regardless of the topic, I always felt better after chatting with Kate than I did before. I wasn’t alone in feeling this way, either: she was the nicest person among us — the heart of our department.
By Colby Nelson
Lecturer of English
I remember first meeting Kate over a decade ago and thinking, after only five minutes of conversation, that I wanted to be her friend. She had a remarkable ability to convey more warmth, kindness, humor, and thoughtfulness in just a few moments than anyone else I know. And even more remarkable: if you were lucky enough to become her friend, you got to discover how she was in fact as warm, kind, funny, and thoughtful as those first five minutes promised. She was, in short, the real deal.
I also remember a conversation we had years ago on her back porch during the early summer that precedes the sweltering heat of the later season. I complained at length about summers here in the county, invoking my west coast roots and making all kinds of exasperated (and in hindsight probably whiny) claims about bug bites and the oppressiveness of humidity. “How can you enjoy summers here?!” I asked. She chuckled, and replied, “You know, Colby, you’re right. Those things are rough. What I have to do is make myself think about what this place offers and what enjoyable things are here that I can’t get anywhere else.” I have been thinking repeatedly about this encounter over the past week, probably because it is a snapshot of what most of my conversations were like with Kate and what made her such a wonderful teacher and friend: the careful listening free of condescension or snark, the good humor, the consideration and validation of a perspective other than her own, and the gentle offer to think about things from another point of view. A challenge, in other words, to reconsider, to keep thinking, to preserve a curiosity about what I may not know. I’m reminded here of what Henry James says in “The Art of Fiction”: “Experience is never limited, and it is never complete; it is an immense sensibility.” I think this “immense sensibility” is what Kate cultivated in her own life, and her gift to me was the loving reminder to cultivate this sensibility in my own life as well. She was the best, and I will miss her very much.
By Christine Wooley
Department Chair and Associate Professor of English
The fact that so many of her students and colleagues will miss Kate is a testament to her. Those of us who have worked closely with her– not to mention my colleagues who knew her best– will always feel her absence. She taught me to value a sustainable professional life. I am so grateful for her example, and I will think of her when I make time to work in my garden or sit outside with a good book.
By Brian O’Sullivan and Jennifer Fossell O’Sullivan
Associate Professor of English and his wife
“If I could do two things before I leave this world,” Kate told us once, “it would be to teach young people how to grow things, and to make some good dirt.” She accomplished both of those goals, and much more. She taught not just young people, but the rest of us too, to grow not just vegetables but community; and she made her mark not just on the landscape of Southern Maryland, but also on those who live and pass through here. We’ll miss her welcoming, comfortable presence.
By Jennifer Cognard-Black
Professor of English
Kate Chandler was generosity personified, both in and beyond the classroom. As a teacher, she gave of herself: meeting repeatedly with students during extended office hours, agreeing to assist with projects and papers galore, helping students launch their own initiatives (such as starting the Campus Farm), teaching her classes about nature writers out in the glorious sun and on the rippling waters of the St. Mary’s River, and often baking her infamous pumpkin-chocolate chip bread to help get students through midterm madness. As a colleague, she was quick to offer assistance in whatever way it was needed, whether that was attending dinners with job candidates or guest lecturers, offering to do all kinds of work on Departmental subcommittees, attending most everything her colleagues put together (from VOICES readings to musical concerts to plays to lectures), and even offering up her own home each and every year for our holiday gatherings. And, finally, as a friend, Kate Chandler was my Southern Maryland family–the big sister I never had. Over the years, she brought me, my spouse Andrew, and my daughter Katharine all manner of goodies (often Oreos in surprising flavors and a tofu chocolate pudding that Kate made herself); she took my Katharine on many a nature hike, baked pies with me and Katharine on our annual “Pie Day” (the day before Thanksgiving), ran a kind of “test kitchen” with me to discover the best recipes for apple crisp, attended theatre and music performances galore that Katharine was a part of from ages five to age seventeen, and would often show up at my office–chocolate in hand–on many an occasion when she knew that I was stressed and needed a lift. I cannot think of another person who was more generous with her time and her spirit than my fellow teacher, colleague, and dear, dear friend Kate Chandler. I miss her–I will always miss her–and hope that I can live my life with the same generosity, kindness, and care that she perpetually gave to me.