In Memoriam: Helene Moglen (1936 – 2018)

To: UC Santa Cruz Community

From: Humanities Dean Tyler Stovall

Helene Moglen

The campus community is invited to a celebration of life at 4 p.m. on March 15, 2019 at Kresge College Town Hall. There will be invited speakers and an open microphone for others who want to share their experience of Helene. Light refreshments will be served.


It is my sad duty to inform you that our beloved colleague, Helene Moglen, passed away in the early morning of October 18. Helene was an institution at UCSC and in the Humanities Division in particular. Educated at Bryn Mawr and Yale, she was on the English Literature faculty at NYU and SUNY Purchase. Her leadership experience at SUNY Purchase included serving as President of the Faculty and Acting Dean of Humanities, and famously founding the first women’s studies program with her colleagues.

Helene first came to UCSC in 1978 as a professor of literature and dean of the humanities; she was the first woman dean in the University of California system. She also served as provost of Kresge College until 1983, transforming and revitalizing that college into a vibrant intellectual community. In her dual role as dean and provost, the Humanities Division became a home for several notable academic departments, including the dynamic and expanding American studies program and the prestigious history of consciousness program.

Helene helped to shape the modern UCSC campus: she opened up the west campus, establishing an independent School of Arts, integrated writing into the foundation curriculum, and established and chaired the Committee on Sexual Harassment. She continued her service to the division, serving as chair of the Women's Studies program from 1984-1989, in addition to founding the Focused Research Activity (FRA) in Women’s/Feminist Studies.

Helene was appointed to the prestigious Presidential Chair in Literature in 2003. The chair’s funding allowed Helene to establish the Institute of Advanced Feminist Research and support its program of research. The Institute was a cross-disciplinary, transgenerational, collaborative bridge within the university and the wider community. It sponsored reading groups, conferences, publication projects, graduate student research, and campus outreach.

Helene routinely taught two undergraduate courses “The Gothic Imagination” and “Women’s Literature” as well as graduate seminars on the “Politics of Genre” and “Women Writers.” She retired in 2008, but remained engaged by teaching until 2013 and mentoring graduate students and junior faculty.

She published four monographs: The Trauma of Gender: A Feminist Theory of the English Novel (2001), Sexual and Gender Harassment in the Academy: A Guide for Faculty, Students, and Administrators (1981), The Philosophical Irony of Laurence Sterne (1976), and Charlotte Bronte: The Self Conceived (1975). She co-edited five collections which explored the intersection of literature and feminism.

Helene had a major impact on the intellectual and political life of Santa Cruz, and was known for her warmth, commitment to community and humanity, and her love of literature. A former colleague shared that “Helene genuinely loved UCSC and believed in it. She loved that it was public, quirky, open, physically beautiful, experimental, and capable of nurturing both brilliant ideas and intense human connection.”

I hope you will all take a moment to remember her and her legacy.  She will be missed. Donations in honor of her memory will be gratefully received by the Center for Cultural Studies of the University of California, Santa Cruz.