The Jacksonville University leader and educator died May 10 at 102.
By Karen Brune Mathis & Max Marbut • Staff Writers
Jacksonville University announced that Chancellor Emerita and former President Frances Bartlett Kinne died May 10 at the age of 102.
Kinne died shortly before noon at her Fleet Landing home in Atlantic Beach, according to JU President Tim Cost.
She would have turned 103 on May 23.
The Florida Times-Union reported April 30 that Kinne suffered a stroke April 21 and returned home with 24-hour care after a week at Mayo Clinic.
A JU statement made the announcement “with great admiration and immense sadness.” It referred to Kinne as a “legendary educator, leader, visionary and advocate.”
JU said it will hold a memorial service this year to honor her “and celebrate her remarkable life.“
“Dr. Kinne dedicated 62 years of her life to serving Jacksonville University, its students and the community of Northeast Florida,” JU announced.
Kinne was born May 23, 1917, in Story City, Iowa. Her father, Charles M Bartlett, published the local newspaper and her mother, Bertha Olson Bartlett, was a librarian.
Kinne started her JU career in 1958 as a humanities professor, and became the first female College of Fine Arts dean in the world in 1961.
JU named her president in 1979, becoming the first female president of a Florida university. The university established what is now the Davis College of Business, the Keigwin School of Nursing, the Aviation program, and the Linda Berry Stein College of Fine Arts.
“Known for her unquenchable optimism, her joy for life and her selfless service to others, Dr. Kinne was most proud of her connection with students,” JU said.
Kinne continued to counsel and inspire hundreds of Jacksonville University alumni, as well as academic and corporate leaders throughout her life.
The Frances Bartlett Kinne University Center, the Kinne Garden at Wilma’s Little People School and Frances Bartlett Kinne Welcome Gallery in the University’s Frisch Welcome Center are named in her honor.
In addition, there are the Frances Bartlett Kinne Auditorium at Mayo Clinic Jacksonville, the North Wing of the Bertha Bartlett Public Library in Story City, Iowa, and the Frances Bartlett Kinne Alumni & Development Center at Drake University.
Cost announced Kinne’s death in a video on JU’s Facebook page and issued a statement.
“Fran Kinne was truly an original, a visionary. She seemingly pioneered the importance of ‘leaning in’ and ‘servant leadership’ decades ago,” the statement said.
“Her optimism was impenetrable and tenacious; nothing could break her will from creating a positive approach to every opportunity. And she had the rare ability to impart that relentlessly positive spirit in everyone she met,” he said.
Cost said Kinne always thought of others, even while facing health challenges late in life.
“And at age 102, she still had the sharp wit and boundless energy that enabled her to so beautifully connect with people, encourage them, extend a kind word,” he said.
“That was her life‘s purpose, to improve the world one person at a time.”
In his Facebook video, Cost said Kinne came to JU in 1958 for a one-month assignment.
“And from 1958 to this very day, the day of her passing, she has lit this university up in a way that none of us could have ever envisioned, but she could,” he said.
Cost graduated from JU in 1981. He said he had known Kinne since he was a college freshman.
“It’s 1977. As I went by, she sort of stopped and said, ‘go into the world and do great things,’ ” Cost said in the video. “I will never forget that and I’ve never seen a person ever in all my time in her more than a century wring more joy out of life than Francis Bartlett Kinne.”
“I asked her once not too long ago when I came back to serve here, I asked her, what is the key, Fran, you had this remarkable career, decadeslong, concert-level pianist, loved by everyone.”
Cost said Kinne was smart and tough and lived her life giving to others.
“She would tell you in her later years that that’s what was keeping her alive. It kept her interested and kept her energized, and let’s all be honest, who have known and loved Fran Kinne it rubbed off on us. She made us better.”
Kinne, who had no children, was married twice. Her first marriage was to Col. Harry Kinne in 1948 until his death in April 1981.
She was married to Worthington “Wordy” Bordley from 1992-96, when he died.
Frances Bartlett Kinne graduated high school in 1934 and then attended Iowa State Teachers College.
She later enrolled at Drake University, where she received a bachelor’s in music education and then served as a U.S. Army hostess for the United Services Organization for three years during World War II.
Kinne graduated in 1957 from the University of Frankfurt in Germany with a triple Ph.D. in philosophy, music and English literature.
She moved in 1958 to St. Augustine and became an assistant professor of humanities at JU.
Kinne established the university’s College of Fine Arts and was selected Professor of the Year in 1961 and 1962.
During the 1960s, JU’s enrollment in arts majors increased by more than 40% and in 1969, Kinne was appointed dean of the college, the first female dean of a college in Florida and the U.S.
She was appointed acting president of the university in 1969 after the incumbent president was asked to resign by the board of trustees.
In the interim role, Kinne established JU’s business college.
She was inaugurated JU’s permanent president in 1980 and eliminated the institution’s debt within 18 months of taking office.
During her tenure as president, Kinne approved creation of JU’s nursing school that graduated its first students in 1983.
In 1986, Kinne was inducted into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame and was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to chair the President’s Council of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida.
After retirement as JU’s president in 1989, Kinne was elected by the board of trustees the university’s first chancellor. In 1994, she became JU’s chancellor emerita.