University of California, San Diego


February 5, 2001


Subject:  Passing of Professor Helene Keyssar, 1943-2001

Helene Keyssar, a professor in the Communication Department at UCSD since 1980, died on February 5, of a recurrence of cancer. She was 57. A theater director and the producer of innovative television programs, Keyssar was also the author of six books, and a prolific writer on film, theater and television. During the 1980s she pioneered the first live interactive television programs with the Soviet Union. In the 1990s she served as a consultant to the World Bank on possible directions for the development of Russian television. She was the author of the first-full length study of the films of the American director Robert Altman. Her book, Feminist Theater, first published in 1985, was one of the initial works to give a theoretical formulation of the qualities of feminist theater. She was the recipient of numerous grants and awards, including fellowships from the MacArthur Foundation Program on International Peace and Security and the Rockefeller Foundation.

Keyssar was born in New York City on October 25, 1943. She grew up in Newark and in Maplewood, NJ and graduated from Brown University in 1965. She taught first at the Calhoun School in New York City. After receiving her MA in English and American Literature from SUNY Stony Brook in 1967, she served as director of Theater Arts and taught at Morris Brown College in Atlanta, Georgia from 1967 until 1969. In 1968 she helped to organize a portion of the funeral parade for Dr. Martin Luther King. Upon leaving Atlanta she taught at the Newark College of Engineering from 1969 until 1971. She attended the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop program where she received her Ph.D in Modern Letters in 1974. Her thesis was later published as her first book, The Curtain and the Veil: Strategies of Black Drama. From 1974 until 1980, she taught at Amherst College in Massachusetts, where she became chair of the Department of Dramatic Arts and is remembered for her innovative direction of a number of plays and the intensity of her teaching. Keyssar served as chair of the UCSD Communication Department from 1983 until 1986. The books she wrote at UCSD include Remembering War: A U.S.-Soviet Dialogue on World War II, with Vladimir Posner (1990), published simultaneously in the US and the USSR, and Right in Her Soul: A Biography of Anna Louise Strong, co-authored with her husband, Tracy B. Strong. Despite the onset of an aggressive cancer in 1990, after very intensive treatment, she resumed teaching, writing, directing and consulting until the return of her illness forced her to take medical leave for a period last year.

She is survived by her husband, Tracy B. Strong, a professor of political science at UCSD, and her children, David D. S. Franke, of Los Angeles and Anise K. Strong, of New York City, as well as by her sister Judith Redwing and her brother Alex Keyssar.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the UCSD Foundation Attn: Helene Keyssar Fund and sent to Paul Drake, Dean of Social Science / SSB 502 / UCSD / La Jolla, CA 92093.

                                                Marsha A. Chandler
                                                Sr. Vice Chancellor