August 27, 2014

Prof. Emerita Phyllis Janowitz Remembered by Colleagues

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Poet and Prof. Emerita Phyllis Janowitz, English, died August 17 at Seneca View Skilled Nursing Facility in Montour Falls, New York. She was 84.

Janowitz taught creative writing and poetry at Cornell for nearly 30 years and served twice as the director of the English Department’s creative writing program — once from 1980 to 1983 and then again from 1986 to 1991 — before retiring in 2009, according to a University press release.

Prof. Roger Gilbert, English Department chair, said he was “extremely fond” of Janowitz, though he said he did not know her as well as other faculty.

“She had a wonderfully dry, self-deprecating sense of humor, but was also very warm and caring, especially when it came to students,” he said.

Janowitz was born on March 9, 1930. She graduated magna cum laude from Queens College in 1951 and earned an MFA in creative writing from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1970, according to the University.

She went on to teach at Bunting Institute, Radcliffe College, Harvard University and Princeton University prior to joining Cornell in 1982, according to her Curriculum Vitae. She served as a poet in residence before becoming a full professor.

Colleagues, including Prof. Stephanie Vaughn, english, said Janowitz’s character was reflected in her poetry.

“It was her tender spirit and her unflinching accommodation to every kind of person on the planet that sang through every poem,” Vaughn said.

Vaughn added that Janowitz’s friends, colleagues and former students will miss her sense of humor.

“She was a good friend to each of her colleagues, and a protector of each of her students. She made you laugh, and she made you feel good about yourself,” she said. “Everyone who knew her will miss her.”

Janowitz was the author of three poetry collections, and her work has been published in several publications, including The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly and The Paris Review.

She is survived by her daughter, Tama, and her son, David.