Department of English

Professor Emerita Kate Frost dies at 71

Tue, August 3, 2010

Kate Gartner Frost, professor emerita of English at the University of Texas at Austin, died on Sunday, July 25th, 2010, in Austin, after a long battle with cancer. A scholar of the English and European Renaissance and past president of the John Donne Society, Kate came to UT in 1974, where she taught until her retirement two years ago.

Kate was born on March 25th, 1939, in Pontiac, Michigan.  After an early exploration of the religious life, Kate completed her B.A. at Barry University in Miami. After receiving the prestigious Woodrow Wilson Fellowship in 1965, she completed her M.A. and Ph.D. at Princeton University, where she studied under D.W. Robertson and Thomas P. Roche, Jr., and completed her dissertation under the direction of Earl Miner.

In the classroom Kate was renowned for her dynamic intellect and irreverent wit, and for her commitment to her students. Kate received several student-nominated awards for her teaching, including the Texas Students’ Association Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award. As a longtime friend and colleague recalls her, Kate “pulsated with a Rabelaisian joie de vivre and sent gales of laughter gusting across the room.” She touched the lives not only of countless University of Texas students, but also of her colleagues and of the scholars she met at professional meetings, who loved her generosity of spirit.

Kate also received acclaim for her academic research, exemplified in her first book, Holy Delight: Typology, Numerology, and Autobiography In Donne’s Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions (1990). She was fascinated by the history of esoteric philosophies and their intersections with the poetic and religious traditions of the West. At her death Kate was completing editorial work on the Songs and Sonnets for the John Donne Variorum.

Kate’s continuing work on Donne’s Devotions, a series of reflections on Donne’s near-fatal bout with typhus of 1623, became deeply personal in later life, as she struggled with her own catastrophic illness. As she wrote in her 2009 John Donne Society presidential address, the Devotions presented her “an invitation to seek the key to health which lies in the Communion of Saints. To recognize that sacramental purgation readies the melded body/soul for a return to wholeness and to receive the gift of a renewed, albeit always precariously so, life.”

Kate is survived by her sister Rita Joan Monti of British Columbia; brother Thomas Frost of Phoenix, Arizona; and two nieces and two nephews. She also leaves behind her other immediate “family”—Beavis, Butthead, Hidey, and Lola.

One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And Death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

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