Tribute to Dr. Joan Kinnaird and her “Abundant Capacity for Human Kindness”
Dr. David Gariff of the National Gallery of Art gave me permission to publish his beautiful tribute to Dr. Joan Kinnaird — we will have a memorial service in Dr. Kinnaird’s memory on Saturday, November 11 at 2 pm in the chapel on the 2nd floor of Main Hall.
A REMEMBRANCE OF PROFESSOR JOAN KINNAIRD by Dr. David Gariff
It is difficult to describe the sadness and sense of loss I felt upon hearing of the death of Professor Joan Kinnaird. I have never encountered a kinder, more sensitive, empathetic, knowledgeable, and modest person.
Joan possessed positive and unique qualities as a teacher, scholar, humanist, and woman of faith. She taught by example in all matters, reflecting a quiet and selfless devotion to her students, colleagues, friends, and family.
I first met Joan in the fall of 1983 when I arrived at Trinity College as a part-time lecturer in art history. The chair of the Art Department was Liliana Gramberg, an accomplished artist, and a remarkable teacher. I was soon ushered into the special educational environment that existed at Trinity between and among the faculty and students devoted to the study of the liberal arts. My time at Trinity would become one of the most important and formative periods in my personal and professional life, in no small measure due to my friendship with Joan Kinnaird.
Because of the many ties between the female faculty members at Trinity and the University of Maryland where I was a Ph.D. candidate, I soon realized that there were several husband-and-wife teams whose careers had unfolded at each school. This fact was in part how I came to meet many of the gifted professors at Trinity including Liliana Gramberg, Eda Levitine, Anna Lynch, and Joan Kinnaird. Added to that list as a special friend and colleague was also Sister Maura Prendergast, SND. All these faculty women were beloved and respected by Trinity students and teachers alike.
I can still recall my first encounter with Joan Kinnaird. I was teaching an art history class in the evenings in the lower classroom of the library. As the class ended, I gathered my notes and rolled the cart with the slide projectors out into the hall. A distinguished looking woman approached me and introduced herself as Joan Kinnaird, a Trinity professor of History. She was soft-spoken and elegant. We exchanged pleasantries when Joan got to the heart of the matter. She had heard of my arrival and knew something of my background. She was interested in knowing if I would consider teaching in a summer study program in Italy that she had organized for Trinity students. It was to be a team-taught program in the study of Italian Renaissance history, literature, and art history. I expressed my interest and Joan invited me to her house for lunch to meet the third professor she had spoken to about teaching the literature component, Sister Maura Prendergast. Thus began my forty-year friendships with these two great ladies of Trinity College.
After my time at Trinity, and throughout my subsequent academic career at various universities, I came to rely upon Joan’s career advice, moral support, and warm encouragement and comfort. She guided me through many of the pitfalls and setbacks of an academic life and career. It was an unexpected gift when I returned to D.C. to accept a position at the National Gallery of Art and we were once again able to spend time together.
Joan Kinnaird’s life and career are a moving testament to her deeply felt Catholic faith, her commitment to teaching, knowledge, and learning, and her abundant capacity for human kindness. A more extraordinary woman I have never known.
National Gallery of Art
Read: Dr. Kinnaird’s Obituary