I was very saddened to learn of the death last week of Katherine Tsanoff Brown. The daughter of Rice’s first philosophy professor, Radoslav Tsanoff, and his formidable wife Corrinne, Katherine was raised at the young Institute with the other faculty children almost as family. These were in many cases bonds that would last a lifetime. Here she is at Christmas time in 1930, posing with her sister and the daughters of Rice Dean Robert Caldwell at Grenoble:
She entered Rice as a student in the fall of 1934, only fifteen years old. She had a stellar career academically–she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in the fall of 1937–as well as socially as a member of the Elizabeth Baldwin Literary Society.
She went on to earn an MFA from Cornell and returned to teach in the architecture school at Rice in 1963, later becoming the first art historian appointed to the new department of Art and Art History. Like her father she was an excellent teacher, honored with awards and with the gratitude of generations of students. Most touching to me are the records of her decade as Dean of Undergraduates, meticulously organized and deeply revealing about the state of student life in the difficult years of the 1970s. Brown was temperamentally almost perfectly suited for this role, calm and gentle but with exacting standards and respect for both the intellect and the emotions of the students. I’m not sure but this may have been her finest role here.
Katherine Brown was quiet and strong and almost impossibly elegant. She was a mediator. She was a scholar who remained committed to the primacy of undergraduate education. We were lucky to have her.
Bonus: She was a talented artist too. Here’s a little place card she made for her friend Ray Watkin, the daughter of architecture professor William Ward Watkin, for a luncheon on the occasion of Ray’s graduation from Rice in 1938. She’s gently teasing Ray here for her early ambition to join the diplomatic service.
Extra Bonus: Here are Katherine and Ray at the President’s House for a dinner in November, 1999.