Archive for Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Mideast expert dies from cancer

June 20, 2006


Just months ago, Deborah "Misty" Gerner was in the Palestinian town of Ramallah, absorbing the region's reactions to the fall from power of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon because of a stroke that left him in a coma.

"Everyone agrees that it is a profoundly important event and that whether one adored or detested Sharon's policies, he has certainly been one of the most important military and later political figures on the Israeli scene," Gerner had said at the time.

Gerner, a Kansas University political science professor and expert on the Arab-Israeli conflict and Palestinian nationalism, died Monday following a long battle with cancer. She was 50.

Gerner's husband, KU professor Philip Schrodt, said Gerner wanted to contribute to the world by bringing a greater understanding of the Middle East.

"That's what she wanted to give her students: a sense that it was a place that people could understand," Schrodt said.

Gerner first joined KU in 1988 and is credited with helping turn KU's international relations program into a vibrant one.

She won several awards, including KU's Kemper Award for teaching excellence. She also authored several books, including "One Land, Two Peoples: The Conflict Over Palestine" (1994).



"She was the resident expert on the Middle East," said Elaine Sharp, chair of KU's political science department.

Gerner took numerous trips to Israel and Palestine, but she also traveled to Morocco, Syria, Lebanon, Oman, Dubai, Turkey and Egypt.

She interviewed former Palestinian Liberation Organization chairman Yassir Arafat on several occasions. And she sought out the lesser-known figures and regular residents often overlooked by major news organizations.

"She was trying to figure out what made the place tick," Schrodt said.

Raised Methodist, Gerner earned a bachelor's degree from the Quaker liberal arts school Earlham College in Richmond, Ind. She earned her master's and doctoral degrees from Northwestern University.

She adopted the Quaker commitment to peace and social justice.

Fellow KU faculty member and friend Alice Lieberman recalled sharing with Gerner an interest in local politics.

"We were both committed to a more liberal tradition," Lieberman said. "She was very committed to local issues, very committed to the election of women."

Lieberman said Gerner battled her illness for many years.

"She fought like the devil," Lieberman said.

Gerner's motto was "carpe diem": Seize the day.


kolisach 12 years ago

What an amazing woman and a brilliant teacher. A true role model to me.

Danielle Brunin 12 years ago

Well said kolisach. She had a tremendous impact on me as well. She will be missed dearly. Dr. Gerner was such a strong woman. I can't believe she's gone.

shawnana79 12 years ago

Misty had such spirit and compassion--both of which made her an excellent teacher and an inspiring mentor. Although my interactions with her lasted only a few short years, her insights and ethics resonate with me to this day. She will be missed.

Jamesaust 12 years ago

Dr. Gerner will be much missed.

Speakout 12 years ago

Knowing Misty for only a short 6 years, I firmly believe that her work was very important to the world. She will be greatly missed. She was vastly needed and I hope and pray that people will read her work and realise what truths she always told.

MaryKatesPillStash 12 years ago

I know Misty was sick for a long time, but it is so hard for me to believe that she is actually gone. She was a true fighter.

Carpe Diem.

Nonsense 12 years ago

This was a true loss to our community.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years ago

I hardly knew her, but she had an appreciation and zest for life that was very contagious-- a great antidote for the cynicism that we can all fall into, regardless of our political or cultural perspective.

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