Frances Kelleher -Professor of History

Frances Kelleher, Professor of History, passed away on April 21st, 2014 after a long illness. Dr. Kelleher joined the faculty of Grand Valley State University in 1988. From the beginning of her career at the university, she was asked to take on positions of leadership: she served as assistant dean of Arts & Humanities from 1989 to 1992, as Acting Dean in 1990, and then as Chair of the Department of History from 1992-2001. During her nine years as Chair of History, she left an indelible mark on the department with her vision for and devotion to combining high standards and humane practices; she led her colleagues in crafting History’s early vision and mission statements, she recruited and mentored talented young colleagues and led a curriculum reform that reflected our broadened range of expertise and commitment to General Education, thus giving us a direction we’ve maintained into our third decade. She also played a crucial role in developing and coordinating the Group Social Studies major.  She also helped to shape the university in its current incarnation more broadly: she advocated for adequate release time for unit heads, drafted the initial plan for the Hauenstein Center, was instrumental in the creation of the Honors College and developing the potential of its interdisciplinary sequences, and it was her research that led to the first salary equity study at GVSU.

 Fran held her Ph.D. in European and modern French History from New York University. She was awarded a Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship in 1991-1992 for her scholarly project, Teaching Transformed: Gender, Public Policy and Professional Politics among Primary School Teachers in Champagne, 1880-1914. In her final years, she blended her passion for weaving with her scholarly expertise through her current project, Art, Craft or Industry? The Jacquard Loom, Industrialization and the Weavers Left Behind.

 Her devotion to providing students with teaching excellence was a hallmark of her career. During her early years at GVSU, she taught students who were preparing to become teachers, building on her years of experience in secondary school in New York State. A gifted mentor and teacher who took an interest in students from their first week of college and stayed connected to them long after graduation, she was a finalist for the American Historical Association’s Eugene Asher Distinguished Teaching Award in 2008. As she moved on from administrative work, she quickly adapted to the digital age in her pedagogy, and was the first member of the History Department to master the challenges of online courses.  Fran was teaching until the final weeks of her life. She was a marvelous example of a university citizen: she always thought about what was good for our students, the department, the college, the university, and the broader community.

 She is survived by her spouse Sue Swartzlander, Professor of English and Honors. her siblings and their spouses, as well as many nieces and nephews. A memorial will be held May 10th  on Cape Cod in Massachusetts.

 People wishing to send donations in Kelleher’s memory are asked to consider two possibilities:

 The LGBT Resource Center at Grand Valley State University
 The Ursuline Provincialate

 A memorial will be held May 10th  on Cape Cod in Massachusetts.





Page last modified April 28, 2014