Known for her generous spirit and commitment to the humanities, Assistant Professor of English Amy Blumenthal’s presence was felt not only on Kenyon’s campus but also around the world. On May 27, Blumenthal passed away at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. She is survived by her husband, NEH Distinguished Teaching Professor of English Sergei Lobanov-Rostovsky, and their daughter, Sophie. She was 61 and had been suffering from an illness that began early this year.
Blumenthal was passionate about her work in higher education. She taught from a place of deep interest and earnest fascination. The works of English poet John Milton and William Shakespeare were her chief research interests, but she also taught Renaissance women’s literature. “She loved Milton,” Lobanov-Rostovsky said. “She loved Shakespeare. She loved teaching those things because they excited her.”
Sarah Modlin ’18 took Blumenthal’s Milton class her sophomore year and formed a deep friendship with Blumenthal. “I just went in to meet with her at one point and we ended up talking for two-and-a-half hours,” Modlin said. “She was just such a generous person with her advice and with her time. There’s something about her that was so receptive to students.”
Blumenthal’s involvement with Kenyon’s admissions department was where she oversaw the creation of multiple admissions campaigns, including the ever-popular “owl postcard,” which depicted the iconic Kokosing owl and asked students, “Still waiting for your owl?” in reference to the book series Harry Potter.
Blumenthal turned her attention to editing for the Kenyon Review, when not teaching or writing enticing material for admissions. She worked alongside editor in Chief David Lynn to create the Review’s highly popular monthly electronic newsletter. Blumenthal created the newsletter’s “Why We Chose It” section, which details the Review’s selection process. Lynn and his wife Wendy Singer — Roy T. Wortman distinguished professor of history — were longtime friends of both Blumenthal and Lobanov-Rostovsky.
The two couples consistently found themselves engaged in similar activities around campus and in Knox County. “Over the years, our lives intersected over and over again in ways that we didn’t expect, in terms of where we lived and where we traveled,” Lynn said. At different points, they all participated in the Kenyon-Exeter Program, a year-long program that takes a small group of Kenyon students to study at England’s University of Exeter. Through their involvement with the program, all four professors fell in love with the English countryside that surrounds the city of Exeter, especially the village of Topsham where the Kenyon faculty chaperones traditionally live. “When she died the outpouring of grief in the Exeter area was really extraordinary,” Lynn said. “People were really amazed and upset because she had come to be such a part of the community and they loved her so much.”
A memorial event will be held for those who want to pay tribute to Professor Blumenthal on Sept. 12, at 7 p.m. in Cheever Room.
Abby Roberts ’15 and Carolyn Fleder ’15, two students who participated in the 2013-14 Kenyon-Exeter program with Blumenthal, were deeply affected by her passing and hope to honor her name by launching a fundraising campaign. Fleder is teaching English at a high school in Pinus, Ecuador — a mountain-community that lacks funds necessary for a functioning library. Both Fleder and Roberts have created a GoFundMe page entitled “The Amy Blumenthal Collection” in the hopes of raising $150 to purchase books for students. https://www.gofundme.com/amy-blumenthal-memorial-library.