Adventurous, intellectual, and compassionate are just a few of the traits that describe Jane Kluckhohn, a teacher of English at UNM. During her 17-year teaching career she developed a national reputation for teaching English to non-native speakers.
Born in Iowa in 1910, Jane Kluckhohn was a lifelong learner who went on to become an inspirational teacher. She attended Bradford Junior College, University of Wisconsin, and University of Minnesota, eventually earning her MA in English from UNM in 1934. She also studied at the École du Louvre and at Stanford University. Jane started teaching at UNM in 1942 and continued teaching through World War II on a temporary appointment. She took a brief leave of absence during the summer of 1944 to take a position in Washington, D.C., because she wanted “the experience of seeing the city in wartime.”
Jane returned to teach at UNM, but took a short break in the summer of 1950 to teach English at the University of Puerto Rico. A couple of years later in 1952, Jane was offered a Fulbright Lectureship to two universities in Bangkok, Thailand: Chulalongkorn University and University of Moral and Political Sciences (Thammasat University). Jane wrote extensively of her experiences in Bangkok and brought back books and other items as gifts to UNM. She took some personal time on her way back to New Mexico to travel around the world.
As an advocate for international students, Jane served as an advisor to over 60 students from various countries. She also acted as local host when UNM hosted the 9th annual conference on exchange of persons sponsored by the National Association of Foreign Student Advisors (NAFSA). When she delivered a speech to the Mortar Board members in 1957, Jane based the talk on the words of a former student who told her, “Now after my study at UNM I can walk in dignity and self-respect in my own way.”
Reacting to the aftermath Hungarian Revolution of 1956, Jane truly established herself as a teacher of national renown. The revolution created refugee students stranded around the country and Jane was at the forefront in helping them. She flew to New York City, creating lesson plans en route, to assist Bard College with teaching English to 300 refugee students. She created a program at UNM to help teach the ten admitted refugee students English. Her attitude was one of inclusion and acceptance. She was quoted in the New Mexico Lobo as saying, “The more naturally and warmly we take the Hungarian students onto our campus, the easier it will be for them.”
Poor health cut Jane’s career short. She left UNM in 1959 after cardio-vascular problems and heart attacks left her unable to teach. She died in Santa Fe in 1962 leaving behind her legacy of generosity, intellectual curiosity, and respect for all people and cultures.
Jane Kluckhohn Faculty File, UNMA 152
Written by Portia Vescio