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Obituary: Kenneth Weisinger

13 August 2003

Kenneth Weisinger
Kenneth Dean Weisinger, director of the campus Education Abroad Program and professor emeritus of German and comparative literature, died at his San Francisco home on July 28 after battling cancer for the past year. He was 60.

Weisinger, who had taught at Berkeley since 1970, was best known for his research on Weimar classicism and the German poets Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Hölderlin. His interests, however, ranged from Goethe and the Brothers Grimm to Chinese opera, Italian cooking, lyric poetry, fine chocolate, and traveling.

Weisinger was said to enjoy teaching students how to appreciate literary and musical forms that were new to them, such as classical Greek and German verse, German operas of the 18th and 19th centuries, and the American musicals that were the basis of his course in the American Cultures program.

“His stunning erudition in classical philology, literature, and music has been a great inspiration for me and many of us over the years,” said Tony Kaes, chair of Berkeley’s German department.

Although Weisinger retired from teaching in June, he had remained the acting director of the campus’s Education Abroad Program (EAP), where he had been a strong advocate as its director since 1998. He twice served as chair of UC Berkeley’s comparative literature department.

A native of Blanco, Texas, Weisinger received his B.A. in history from Stanford University in 1964. At Berkeley he earned his master’s degree in comparative literature in 1967 and his Ph.D. in 1971.

His experience studying abroad as an undergraduate and graduate student helped form his appreciation of the importance of Berkeley’s EAP, said Jan Kieling, assistant director of the program and Weisinger’s longtime friend. With Weisinger at the helm, the number of students participating in the program grew substantially, a development that coincided with campus efforts to make greater use of EAP to help accommodate dramatically increasing undergraduate enrollment.

Weisinger’s book. The Classical Façade: A Non-Classical Reading of Goethe’s Criticism, was published in 1988 by Pennsylvania State University Press. He also was a reader and reviewer for many academic presses and journals.

At the time of his death, Weisinger was working on a book on Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller and another on the collaboration between German male authors during the 19th century.

Weisinger is survived by his mother, Ruby Weisinger, of Austin, Texas. A memorial service is being planned for the late fall at the Faculty Club.

— Kathleen Maclay