Sarah “Sally” Kent, 54, a professor emerita of history, died on Feb. 3, 2015, in Stevens Point after a lengthy battle with lung cancer.
She became a member of the history faculty in 1987, retiring in spring 2014 for health reasons.
A specialist in modern Croatian history, Kent taught courses in Russian and East European history. She served as chair of the Department of History for three years as well as several terms on Faculty Senate. She was also the coordinator of international studies from 2008 to 2014. Committed to graduate education, she helped revitalize the department’s Master of Science in Teaching degree program. Students nominated her for the University Teaching Award in 1997.
Her colleagues nominated her for the University Service Award in 1999, 2006 and 2011. In 2012, she was awarded the Eugene Katz Letters and Science Distinguished Faculty Award.
Sunny Schneider-Christensen, 2012 history graduate, valued her relationship with Kent both as a mentor and friend.
“Sally was warm, compassionate, generous, intelligent, supportive, feisty and friendly to a fault,” Schneider-Christensen said. “She always made time for questions after class, in her office, or anywhere you may happen across her path. She always was willing to divert class discussion to help answer student questions without grudge.”
She said Kent’s love of history was infections and eventually caused her to choose the discipline as her major.
“It is her love and passion for history that I carry inside me,” she said. “It’s the same love and passion that I hope to pass to my children someday.”
Kent was involved in first-year interest groups and served as chair for a session on Women and War for the Wisconsin Institute for War and Peace. She was also an adviser for the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Amnesty International Club, receiving the ULA Mentor Award for that position.
Throughout her career, she received other various awards and grants from programs such as Fullbright and the International Research and Exchanges Board. She was a research fellow at the Institute for the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1994-95, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. in 1999 and the Institute for Contemporary History in Zagreb, Croatia.
“She was a tireless researcher,” said Eric Yonke, director of international programs. “She was intimidating to teach a class with, but also incredibly kind. I will always remember her laugh.”
Kent traveled and lived abroad. She was a resident in the former Yugoslavia during its historic breakup. In 1997, after the war, she lived in Sarajevo for a year, serving as the executive secretary to the Provisional Election Commission. She assisted the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina to establish the first modern national elections in the new country.
She was then asked by the U.S. State Department to help prepare ambassadors for Croatia and Bosnia in 2003 and 2004. She was also asked to lecture on Croatian nationalism at the Foreign Service Institute in Washington, D.C. She gave professional and community presentations and published many scholarly works.
“She had a passion for her area of history, and in recent years became an avid roller derby fan,” said Nancy LoPatin-Lummis, director of general education and professor of history. “She also took an interest and pride in my children.”
LoPatin-Lummis was close friends with Kent and described her as having a whimsical nature and a love for education and passing her knowledge along through classes and advising.
“She may be gone, but her presence certainly still echoes through the halls,” said Lee Willis, associate professor of history and department chair. “She was a vibrant personality and a strong advocate for students and of international studies.”
A memorial service will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 24, in the Alumni Room of the Dreyfus University Center at which time the mourning flag will fly. Gifts in Kent’s memory should be made payable and sent to the UWSP Foundation for the History Department Faculty Memorial Endowment. Credit card contributions can be made at www.uwsp.edu/givenow. Funds will be put toward history student scholarships.
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