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Kenneth Lash

Black Mass

                              Kenneth Lash

October 17, 1985

CEDAR FALLS--Word has been received of the death on October 3 in Boston of Kenneth Lash, 67, head of the University of Northern Iowa Department of Art from 1970 through 1975, and director of UNI's Humanities program from 1976 until his retirement from that position in 1983.

He moved to Cape Cod in 1983, "searching for a peaceful place to write and think." He taught art and literature courses at the Wisdom Institute in Hyannis, where "his courses were attended by students who enjoyed rigorous intellectual discipline, good writing, and ironic humor," wrote the Cape Cod Times in Lash's October 5 obituary. The Times referred to Lash as a "writer, teacher, and humanist." He also taught at the Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill.

"He really was a humanist scholar in the truest sense of the word," said Anne B. Quinn, the Wisdom Institute's president. "He had great respect for those things in life which make us more human. He believed that one goes on creating one's own life throughout a lifetime, that one never stops studying the relation of art to life."

"The major life-giving principles of the human are kindness and humor" Lash was quoted as saying in "Who's Who in America." "The latter requires activity of the mind, the former activity of the spirit."

Lash wrote the screenplay for the film "By Love Possessed," based on the James Gould Cozzens novel, and a book of stories, poetry, and essays called "A Lot for the Money." He contributed to The New Yorker magazine, was a contributing editor of the North American Review, and, for several years, was editor of the New Mexico Quarterly Review. He wrote for several literary magazines.

Lash was born July 17, 1918, in New Britain, Connecticut. He received a B.A. degree from Yale University in 1939, where he was named to Phi Beta Kappa, and an M.A. degree from the University of New Mexico in 1948, both with majors in English and minors in philosophy. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1943 through 1946.

He studied at the Universite de Lille in France under a Fulbright grant, and received a Rockefeller Traveling Grant in the Arts for study in Latin America.

Before joining the UNI art faculty, he was a member of the English faculty at University of New Mexico, and chairman of the humanities department at the San Francisco Art Institute.

While at UNI, Lash was a member of the advisory council of the Iowa Board for Public Programs in the Humanities, and a member of the education panel of the Iowa

He served as a consultant to the Carnegie Corporation, the New York State Council on the Arts, Educational Testing Services, and Sangamon State University. He was a consultant with the President's Commission on Mental Health in 1977-1978.

While at UNI, Lash told the Cape Cod Times in 1983, he changed the emphasis of the introductory art course from "art appreciation" to "learning how to see."

"Without the ability to use your eyes freshly all the time, you become visually deprived. The object was to teach them how to use their eyes."

Class members were given individual lemons with which they were asked to become deeply familiar, he explained. At the next class, the lemons were mixed up, and students were told to retrieve their own from the pile. "I was amazed at how quickly students could succeed."

Lash believed such exercises "stimulate and sharpen the senses" and help students "begin to understand the effect of visual surroundings and what they need to do to their environment to make it a better place in which to live."

Lash is survived by a brother, Jerome, in Shelton, Connecticut, an aunt, Evelyn Poboco, in Encino, California, and several cousins.

There will be no funeral service, but a private "gathering of friends" is planned to be held soon on Cape Cod. .


TO: Faculty and Staff Members
FROM: William W. Lew, Head, Department of Art
DATE: 28 October 1985

As many of you already know, Kenneth Lash, former Professor of Art at UNI, died on Wednesday, 2 October, at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Death was brought on by complications from cancer of the lymph glands.

Mr. Lash, who was 67 at the time of his death, was associated with our institution from 1970 through 1983. During his tenure at UNI he served first as the head of the Department of Art and later as the Director of the Humanities Program.

His cancer was first diagnosed thirteen years ago. After treatment for the disease he wrote a poem entitled, "Topic of Cancer," which reads as follows:

"Fifty-four years intact, then flung
in a blink into a hospital,
lying there answering questions
like a student with superior grades.
Even when they began to poke and prod
I knew they wouldn't find anything
beyond the little lump."

The last stanza reads:
"Out-patient now.
The treatments go on.
You go on, slogging back and forth
between Science and the grocery store.
Along the way your hair falls out,
to help you give over vanity, I suppose,
though the purpose may be more mystic.
Still no feeling in the fingertips as I sort through the papers at the office.
Make no mistake: I will go on,
like you, sorting papers.
It isn't known yet
what kind of body
I am to have and to hold.
First thing is
I want my hair back.
Then maybe a greenhouse . . . ."

No funeral service is scheduled. In its place a private "gathering of friends" will be held on Cape Cod.

Mr. Lash is survived by a brother, Jerome, in Shelton, Connecticut, and an aunt, Evelyn Poboco, in Encino, California.


Rod Library Special Collections and University Archives 
University of Northern Iowa 
Cedar Falls, Iowa 50613-3675 
Telephone: (319)-273-7295
Fax: (319)-273-2913 
Email: libarchives@uni.edu

 

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