February 26th, 2003
|09:16 am - A former professor's passing|
My former advisor, professor and friend, Karen C. Kossuth, died of cancer of the jaw 10th November 2001.
She didn't call or write to tell me, and I only now had enough concentration to try to find out why the emails bounced and the phone never picked up--I figured she was back from sabbatical now. The cell number I had for her got answered by someone else months ago, but I had nowhere else to try, and the phone at school had an old recording this summer. I found out there was one classmate who knew, but was asked to keep her condition a secret. I understand, and I don't, at the same time.
I cried so hard when I found out via a websearch that the dogs next door started howling--my keening was that high in pitch.
If any of you are ever seriously ill, WILL YOU (or someone you designate) PLEASE TELL ME? I promise to try to visit before you can't face visitors, I won't moan at you, I won't try to be falsely cheerful, but please, if you think you're going to die, let me say a last goodbye and remind you, as you're leaving this life, how you've made my life better for your presence in mine.
I'm tired of losing people I care about and finding out about it a year later, as I did with Elizabeth Wrigley and now Karen. This is one thing that the adjusted thyroid, all the additional bits I'm doing to help along the mood stabilizer and anti-depressant can't handle--the regret of not having known in time to do something.
This regret prompted me to tell my housekeeper, when she called to say she might have cervical cancer, that I was her Patient Advocate, and I was going with her to appointments, since the nearby family were none of them capable of being that. [As it happened, we had to fire one doctor, get another, run the tests again, get a colposcopy after the cone biopsy, and finish with a hysterectomy. Fran got out of the hospital as quickly as they'd let her, so that she could go home. Her mother was there, but it was a struggle getting Fran to tell her she was sick. Fran is doing fine in 2006]
What comes below doesn't tell you much about the Karen I knew, or what she did for me. She is one of four people who kept me tied to this world annd daily life in 1988 so that I did not retreat to a point where I could find a way to kill myself. She was the ONLY person who would let me talk about my suicidal feelings, and thus allowed me to see that I didn't really want to kill myself, that I just wanted to end the pain and the fear. She accepted that some people need to leave under their own schedule, and that if the world held no more joy for me, she'd understand my needing to leave it, but miss me. Few know how precious a gift that was.
She was my thesis and path advisor, and frequent professor, in college. She liked folk and classical musics, as I did, and she was interested in medieval history and needlework, although she knitted more than embroidered, which I was doing then. She was fun to share meals with--she liked bold red wines and Alsatian gewurztraminers (Trimbach, especially), and I don't think she turned down singlemalts. I liked the years best when we lived two blocks apart, as the bicycle goes, and hated moving north away from her.
She once told me that her favorite bouquet was a single red rose surrounded by white lilacs, and I finally found a decent silk replica of the lilacs just before she sold the house & kennel in Yorba Linda. If there's to be a memorial to her at Pomona College, I'd vote for a bench surrounded by rose bushes, primarily David Austin varieties, which she favored. One could of course omit the bench...
It's her fault that we eat Dutch Babies, to which she introduced us about the time I moved in with the man I soon married. For that reason, I enclose the recipe below.
Dutch Baby Pancakes
Source/comments: Sunset Magazine (and Entertaining for All Seasons) through Karen Kossuth, who made it for us first. Popover-sized babies are in the 1989 Sunset Recipe Annual.
1/2 c. butter or margarine
1 1/2 c. each milk and all-purpose flour
ground nutmeg, lemon wedges and powdered sugar, or fresh or hot fruit, to top
To make a single large pancake, you need a shallow 4 1/2 -5 qt. pan with steep sides. Two shallow steep-sided pans, each 2-3 qts (such as large pie dishes or 9” round cake pans) may be used to make smaller cakes. The pan(s) you use must be less than 3” high, and have steep sides. Heat oven to 425˚F, and put butter in pan(s). Mix batter quickly while butter melts.
In a blender on high speed, whirl eggs for one minute. With motor running, pour in milk; then add flour, a spoonful at a time. When all is added, whirl 30 seconds longer. (With a hand mixer, beat eggs until light and lemon-colored; gradually beat in milk, then flour.)
Remove pan(s) from oven, and quickly pour all the batter into the large pan, or half into each of the small pans. Return to oven and bake until puffy and well browned: 20-25 min., depending on pan size. Dust with nutmeg, and serve with toppings.
For other pan sizes:
Pan Size Butter Eggs Milk & Flour
2—3 qts 1/4 c. 3 3/4 c. each
3—4 qts. 1/3 c. 4 1 c. each
4—4 1/2 qts. 1/2 c. 5 1 1/4 c. each
College Mourns Loss
By HANS HASSELL
There are few people who knew Professor Karen Kossuth who will forget the sparkle in her eyes and the smile on her face.
A professor at Pomona since 1973, she died suddenly on Tuesday.
Her career was a wide-ranging one. She began her Pomona career in 1973 as a professor of German and eventually rose to the chair of the old Department of Modern Languages.
As the years progressed, her interests shifted toward linguistics, specifically the study of language acquisition and change. Working with Professor René Coppieters and Professor Jay Atlas, Karen helped create the new Department of Linguistics and the Cognitive Science program.
"We, all three of us, worked to create the department. She invested her intense interest and enthusiasm whole heartedly," said Coppieters
"Her research and teaching on questions of language acquisition and change complemented the more theoretical approach of Professors Coppieters and Atlas," said President Peter Stanley.
Her specialty was second language acquisition and gendered language, and she had a clear passion for both subjects. "I’m not sure which she loved more. She loved to focus on how things worked and she could quote endless research. It was a blast just listening to her," said Vickie Ahrberg, an administrative assistant for the foreign language and linguistic departments.
Her enthusiasm easily rubbed off as well. The year before her death she led a yearlong faculty seminar in cognitive science that drew participants from across Pomona’s fields of study. "Her infectious delight in learning even the most difficult new things…made her the intellectual heart of the enterprise," explained Stanley.
"She contributed a lot to the life of the campus," Dean of Students Ann Quinley said.
Her interests were transferred to almost all she came in contact with because of her great passion for the things she did. "Her enthusiasm could take your breath away," remarked Stanley.
"Her enthusiasm was infectious...I remember how she would encourage us to do stupid things, things that couldn’t be done, or had never been done, and then they would just happen," remembers Laura Staum ’02, Kossuth’s advisee.
Students also loved her. "She was the nice kind of professor that students always like," said Quinley.
"Everyone loved her...she was the most disorganized person I have ever known, but it was impossible to be angry with her," Staum said.
Her love for the students was equally as strong. "She was so enthusiastic about her students’ work…She would come in here all excited and tell us about something her students were working on or had done," Ahrberg said.
She enjoyed mentoring students, and was always willing to spend time with them, no matter what else was going on at the moment. She was a great mentor to those students she came in contact with. She gave time to everyone," remembered Ahrberg.
However, her enthusiasms were not merely limited to her work as a linguist or as a professor at Pomona. Like the quintessential, well-rounded liberal arts student, she had many other interests, which she pursued vigorously, from dog breeding to mountain climbing to music.
"She was like a renaissance woman," said Ahrberg
Her love for dogs was apparent from those who came to class with her. "She bred English setters and she used to teach with them around," said Ahrberg
"She always had at least one, sometimes two of them with her," remembered Foreign Language Secretary Nancy Olson.
"She had one dog that was ranked number one or two in the country," remembered Quinley.
She was willing to share her knowledge of dogs with others, and even advised Dean Quinley in selecting her first Jack Russell Terrier. She was able to give some great advice on choosing a terrier," said Quinley.
Kossuth also loved the outdoors, hiking and mountain climbing.
"She was a big nature lover. She had a house in northern California and she used to call us to tell us of the wild turkeys that were outside her home," said Ahrberg.
She scaled numerous mountains, including the formidable Matterhorn, and spent the night halfway up the slope, enjoying the clear sky, the beautiful stars and gorgeous sunrise that were not to be found elsewhere.
"She was a gloriously interesting human being," said Stanley.
Besides many of her active interests, "she had, also, a beautiful, pure singing voice," remembers Stanley. Many may not remember that aspect of her life, however, as she avoided displaying her talented voice in public.
As Professor Kossuth began her sabbatical leave at the beginning of this summer she was tragically diagnosed with cancer. "It came upon her quickly, and ran its course quickly as well. I don’t think she knew of this illness when she left in May," Quinley said.
Though she fought to the end to be able to continue her many passions in life, the cancer took its toll. "Karen had an indomitable spirit and an uncomplicated joy in the life of the mind," said Stanley.
"She was seen always with a smile on her face around campus," Quinley said.
Her personality and her love of life and what she did was obvious to all. "Her wit, her curiosity, her indomitable spirit and the distinctive sparkle in her eye remained to the end," said Stanley.
"She was still so happy," said Staum.
I have been unable to get information on her remaining family (two sisters and a brother) so that I could write them. Karen is another one of the women I call when Ancestors are called in circle. She was a great influence in my life as a professor and as a friend, after graduation.