JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Dr. Frances Bartlett Kinne, the first woman ever to serve as president of a Florida university, died Sunday at age 102, leaving a lasting, profound legacy on those who knew her, Jacksonville University President Tim Cost told The Morning Show.
For 62 years Kinne, a trailblazer in education, served Jacksonville University, its students and the Northeast Florida community.
The chancellor emerita and former president of JU had a joy for life and was most proud of her connection with students.
“If you go back to her own beginnings in Story City, Iowa, with her father who was the publisher of a local newspaper, and her mother who started the local library -- she was born to be someone who was certainly smart, but it was her joy of living -- as I’ve said many times over the years I’ve known her -- she managed to make it rub off on all of us,” Cost said. "Everyone felt better around Fran.”
Kinne came to Jacksonville University in 1958 as a humanities professor and in 1960 she founded its College of Fine Arts. She was dean of the fine arts program starting in 1969 and became the private university’s president in 1979.
“I remember where every student sat at JU. But it was their influence on me that made me happy. Because my whole philosophy is that life is not about me. Life is about others. And when you make other people happy, that makes you happy,” Kinne said in 2017.
During her 10-year term, the school’s business and nursing schools were founded. She became the university’s chancellor in 1989, serving for five years before retiring.
Cost, a member of the JU class of 1981 who assumed the role of president in 2013, said Kinne’s impact on him was nothing short of profound.
“She had a profound effect on me and my entire family,” Cost said. “We would bring Fran over frequently to our home. She used to call them knees under the table at dinners. Where in her life -- so frequently she was the guest of honor, being moved around the room. Yet she could come to my house and see my wife and my daughter, and my granddaughter and my son. She just imbued us all with this tenacious optimism.”
May 23 would have been Kinne’s 103rd birthday. Cost said when he asked her some years ago what kept her going she told him, “giving to others.”
Kinne was honored Monday evening when the lights on University Boulevard were illuminated in her favorite color, red.
Jacksonville University plans to hold a memorial service later this year to honor Kinne. Plans are still to be worked out.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.