KU mourns recent deaths of professors emeriti

In this 2001 photo, KU art history distinguished professor Marilyn Stokstad is pictured with the recently completed second edition of her book, Art

As March comes to a close, the Kansas University community is missing three notable professors emeriti, who combined had amassed well over a century of teaching in Slavic languages, English and history of art. Stephen Parker, Melvin Landsberg and Marilyn Stokstad died this month.


Parker, 76, died March 14 from complications of Alzheimer’s, according to his obituary. A celebration of life was to be planned at a later date.

University leaders described him as renowned for his research in Slavic languages and literatures, particularly the author Vladimir Nabokov. According to a university news release, Parker taught at KU from 1967 until his retirement in 2011, and chaired the Slavic department from 1987 to 2000.

“Steve was so generous to the Slavic department, its faculty and students in donating his mother’s (Professor Fan Parker) and his comprehensive collection of Russian literary works, as well as funds to build the Parker Slavic Library,” Marc Greenberg, director of the KU School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures and former Slavic department chair said in the news release. “I will always be grateful to him.”


Landsberg died March 5 at age 89, according to a KU news release. Services were March 9.

Landsberg was known as perhaps the world’s leading expert on 20th century writer John Dos Passos and authored the book “Dos Passos’ Path to USA: A Political Biography, 1912-1936,” according to KU.

He taught in KU’s department of English from 1961 to 2009, according to his obituary, and his “deep knowledge and understanding of literature and history informed his teaching, fueled his lifelong interests in a wide range of topics, and made him an often fascinating conversationalist.”


Stokstad, KU’s Judith Harris Murphy Distinguished Professor Emerita of Art History, died March 4 at 87. A celebration of life is planned for the fall, according to a KU announcement.

Stokstad wrote art history textbooks used widely by universities (personal disclosure: I still have Stokstad’s “Medieval Art” and the massive and encyclopedic hardback “Art History” in my bookshelf at home). According to KU she joined the KU faculty in 1958 and retired in 2002, including directing the then-KU Museum of Art in the 1960s and serving as associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences in the 1970s.

In addition to her academic legacy, Stokstad’s financial gifts to KU included one announced in 2014 to establish the Spencer Museum of Art Marilyn Stokstad Directorship, making that job an endowed position at KU. Here’s a snip from the story I wrote at the time: “Stokstad said the museum was in her will but that she decided it would be ‘much more fun’ to make the donation, an undisclosed amount, while she was around to see it.”


• I’m the Journal-World’s KU and higher ed reporter. See all the newspaper’s KU coverage here. Reach me by email at sshepherd@ljworld.com, by phone at 832-7187, on Twitter @saramarieshep or via Facebook at Facebook.com/SaraShepherdNews.