Honoring Frances Bartlett “Fran” Kinne, FA’40, GR’44

The following message was shared with the Drake University campus by President Marty Martin on May 11, 2020.

Dear students and colleagues,

Frances Bartlett Kinne passed away yesterday morning, May 10, at the age of 102. Fran was one of the most distinguished graduates in the 139-year history of Drake University. Her accomplishments in music, academia, and philanthropy leave behind a legacy that will touch lives far into the future. I consider it one of the blessings of my life that Fran was my friend. 

Fran became a Bulldog when she first set foot on Drake’s campus in the late 1930s. She graduated from Drake in 1940 with a bachelor of music education and again in 1944 with a master of music education. While her late husband was serving in Germany after World War II, Fran became the first American woman to graduate with a doctorate from the University of Frankfurt in Germany. She earned cum laude honors, with a triple major in Music, English Literature, and Philosophy. Drake awarded Fran an honorary doctorate of fine arts in 1981.

Fran began a career of great vision and impact at Jacksonville University as an assistant professor of the humanities in 1958. She founded the university’s College of Fine Arts in 1960, became the institution’s president in 1979, serving in that role until 1989. She was the first female university president in the history of the state of Florida. After her presidency, Fran continued to serve Jacksonville University as chancellor emeritus.

Fran served on the Drake University Board of Trustees from 1979 to 2009, at which time she was given the title trustee emerita. Fran was honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award in 1969. Among many major financial gifts to the Drake, she funded the Frances Bartlett Kinne Endowed Music Scholarship for Piano. The University’s Kinne Alumni and Development Center was named in her honor in 1997.

Fran was born on May 23, 1917, in Story City, Iowa, to Bertha and Charles Bartlett. Her father published Story City’s newspaper and her mother founded and ran the town library. Fran always maintained close ties to Story City, especially to the town’s library and other civic institutions, which she generously supported.

Fran was preceded in death by her first husband, Col. Harry L. Kinne, who died in 1981, and her second husband, Col. M. Worthington Bordley Jr., who died in 1996. Funeral services are expected at a later date in Story City. Jacksonville University also plans to hold a memorial service later this year in Fran’s honor.