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Remembering Emeritus Theatre Professor Grant McKernie

Grant as Mrs. Malaprop

Grant McKernie died Saturday morning, September 1, 2018. He was born in Moline, Illinois April 7, 1942 to Walter and Sheila (Kilpatrick) McKernie. Heather(sister) and Cliff Carlson and their son Adam are his immediate survivors.

Grant received his BA from Northwestern University in 1964, an M.A. in Political Science in 1965, and his Ph.D. in Theatre, from The Ohio State University in Sept, 1972.

Grant taught for the department of Theatre Arts at the University of Oregon from 1979 to 2008.  He was well known and beloved for the excellence of his teaching, for which he received the Ersted award from the University of Oregon in 1984.  In 1993, he was the first to receive a national award for outstanding teaching from the Association for Theatre in Higher Education.  He was the co-author with Jack Watson of A Cultural History of Theatre, published in 1993.  Grant had several articles published over his career, including two about the HET theatre festivals in Amsterdam in 1995 and 1996, as well as an article on The Orestia, for Theatre Journal in 1995.  Grant served as head for Theatre Arts in the 1980s.

Former students, friends and colleagues remember Grant as having the unique gift of making you feel important, cared for, listened to with precision and heart. He had a waggish wit and a willingness to make fun of himself that endeared him to many. He also was known for his remarkable memory, which allowed him to know the name of each student in classes of 150 within the first week. He was a very important mentor to his Ph.D. students, many of whom would credit his guidance to their own success in scholarship and teaching. In the latter years of his teaching life, Grant became fascinated with Dutch and Lithuanian theatre.  He became quickly fluent in Dutch and resided part time in Leiden, where he had many dear friends and was asked to be a judge for the annual HET theatre festival in Amsterdam. Grant also taught for a semester at Vilnius University in Lithuania. Grant was a passionate pianist, bridge player and crossword puzzler.  He was very involved with the Eugene HIV Alliance in the 1980s and 90s, and was a reliable advocate for others in the Eugene arts and theatre communities.

Grant directed many productions for the University of Oregon, most memorably and reflecting the range of Grant’s curiosity and taste for theatre:  The School for Scandal, The Trojan Women, Anything Goes, The Last Dragon (which he co-authored and brought to perform for the region’s American College Theatre Festival that year),

A Quiet End, T-Bone and Weasel, Tales of the Lost Formicans, and The Grapes of Wrath.  Some were lucky to see Grant perform as Mrs. Malaprop in a University Theatre production of The Rivals. He was also fond of pretending to be Oscar Wilde in front of his Introduction to Theatre students, taking questions that he could answer with quips from Wilde’s writing and repartee. His last performance was as the narrator for Stravinsky’s Soldier’s Tale, produced by the John G. Shedd Institute for the Arts, in 2005.

A memorial service to celebrate Grant’s life will be held in the Robinson Theatre at the University of Oregon, at 2pm on Sunday, September 30.  Donations in his memory may be sent to the University of Oregon department of Theatre Arts Alumni Gift Fund.

Grant in his office, mid-80’s.