Jean Elizabeth Kennard, UNH professor emerita of English, died March 26 at the Laconia Rehabilitation Center in Laconia, N.H., of pneumonia. She was 79. Her life partner of 39 years, Susan Schibanoff, was at her side.
During her tenure at UNH, Kennard authored four books and numerous articles on Victorian literature and modern British fiction, with specialty areas in women’s literature, the literature of World War I and GLBT studies. She also taught undergraduate and graduate courses on these subjects, including the first course on women’s literature at UNH. She was the first female chair of the English Department (1978-1981) and its first female tenured full professor. She received the 1986-1987 University Distinguished Teaching Award; the 1992-1993 Kidder Fund Tolerance Award for Faculty; and the 1999-2000 University Distinguished Professor Award.
Kennard was born in England in 1936 and lived through the terror of the German bombardment of London during World War II. She received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of London in 1958 and emigrated to Canada in 1960, where she taught English in high school and college. In 1968, Jean completed her doctorate in English at the University of California Berkeley. She taught at California State University Hayward until 1975 then moved east to take a position as professor of English at UNH, from which she retired in 2000.
Kennard was an avid hiker, completing the 48 White Mountain 4,000-footers in 1989 and, a few years later, the 67 New England 4,000-footers. She climbed extensively in the Adirondacks, and her dream was to hike the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. The only journal she ever kept recorded each and every hike she took, always noting which dogs were along. Jean was at work on her last book, an exploration of the writings of AT thru-hikers, with whom she corresponded, when she suffered a severe hemorrhagic stroke in 2007.
A memorial service will be held Sunday, May 22, at 1 p.m., in the ballroom at the Holiday Inn located at 172 North Main St. in Concord, N.H. A reception will follow. Memorial donations may be made to the New Hampshire Humane Society, an animal shelter or rescue organization of your choice, or sponsor a student at Bridge International Academies.