The person about whom this blog is written has been an important part of my life since I started college at Jacksonville University in 1979. Her name is Dr. Frances Bartlett Kinne. As a clueless college freshman, registering for classes, I first met her when she was working the registration lines which were hung up by newfangled computer technology. Dr. Kinne was the President of J.U. and she was not sitting in her offices while we waited in lines for hours for the computers to cooperate, no, she was out, walking the grounds and talking to new students. I had been told by a family friend to introduce myself to her if I ever saw her, so I took the opportunity to make the connection when that opportunity arose. And, it paid off immediately as she signed me into a class that appeared closed – my first college photography class. That was the start to a great friendship, though I had no way of knowing it at the time – she was, after all, the President. And, she was the first woman President of not only J.U., but of any university in Florida. A woman of firsts, she was also the first woman Dean of a College of Fine Arts in the world. She later became the first woman member of a Rotary Club in Jacksonville and later the club President. I had the pleasure of accompanying her to the Florida Governor’s Mansion for her 1982 induction to the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame, first class of inductees, of course. I was there to chauffeur her and to photograph the event for her archives. Her archives are an amazing photographic history that can take hours to study. The photographs of her with Bob Hope (and there are several of these), Gerald Ford, Jack Benny, Charlton Heston, Winston Churchill, M.P., Steve Forbes, and so many others are evidence of the extent of her reach. Many of these people, like Bob Hope, she met while organizing USO troop performances in WWII. But, beyond those initial connections, she continued making more and, whenever possible, getting these famous people to come to Jacksonville University to expose the student body to them, thus providing a bigger picture of the world to them, or, I should say, us. I was fortunate to work for Dr. Kinne for 2 years in the President’s office while a junior and senior at J.U. . This put me in the middle of things and it was not unusual to answer the telephone and it could be Bob Hope or another celebrity calling. At that time I also was frequently hired by J.U. to photograph the events involving these people, so it was amazing to have this exposure (pun intended) because of her. Dr. Kinne, Fran, taught me many things, often by example. It was her policy in the President’s office that no telephone calls were ever to be screened. If anyone asked to speak with her, and she was available, she would take the call. She did not want anyone, a celebrity, donor, board member, student, students’ parents, or the occasional kook to think she was screening out any callers. Fran was, and is, frequently the subject of news coverage, particularly in the Jacksonville press, partially due to the aforementioned “firsts.” She would never reveal or allow her age to be published and said her mother taught her that if you reveal your age, people will treat you based on that number. This policy changed when she hit 90, and now 8 years later, she is going strong. You never know how a quick meeting will work out in the long run, but this one, with Dr. Fran Kinne, has been a highlight of my life.
Some time ago, I wrote a post about two people I have met whom I believe to be self actualized. One of these people is Dr. Fran Kinne. At the time of this writing, although women have come a long way in terms of gender equality, it is still a “man’s world.” This recognition makes it even more amazing that many of Dr. Kinne’s achievements happened in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and other decades when many women were unable to break through gender barriers and other societal obstacles in their careers. Dr. Kinne has accomplished more in her life than anyone else I have met. And, the manner with which she has achieved outstanding success is, in my opinion, almost as remarkable as the “firsts” and other milestones she has achieved. In addition to being a genius; an accomplished professional musician; an academic, including a university professor, dean, president, and chancellor; Dr. Kinne has always “gone about her business” with charm, wit, and a sincere interest in other people. Regardless of where she is or who she is with, she is always the most interesting person in the room. However, she conducts herself with grace and elegance, such that the other people in her presence feel as special as she is. (Perhaps the Queen of England would be equally interesting and as highly accomplished as Dr. Kinne; however, in my opinion, even the queen would be awe stricken when in Dr. Kinne’s presence.) I attend many social events, including events that are quasi social in that they are professional events that require my presence. In almost every situation, including countless tiresome dinner parties, most people blather on endlessly about their dull existence, rarely concerning themselves with asking me anything about myself. In contrast, Dr. Kinne, whose existence is spectacularly highly charged and never dull, acts as if spending time with David and me is the most important thing on her agenda. David is one of the most fortunate people I have ever met; he got to know Dr. Kinne as a teenager, when he began college, and he has counted her among his closest friends for many decades since then. I continue to “bask in reflected glory” every time I am with Dr. Kinne and I am truly privileged to know her.