LSU Community Mourns the Loss of Professor Emerita Mary Frances HopKins
BATON ROUGE –Mary Frances HopKins, Professor Emerita at LSU, died peacefully and at home on Tuesday, Oct. 29.
She was a leader, scholar, mentor, performer, friend – and all of these she did with her singular grace, style and wit. She left a tremendous legacy. Faculty in the Department of Communication Studies said they are honored to have known her, to have benefited from her wisdom. She enriched not only the department at LSU and the profession, but also the lives of students, faculty and staff she encountered.
Funeral arrangements are being discussed, but there will be a service at St. James Episcopal Church in Baton Rouge around Nov. 11-15.
HopKins received her Ph.D. from the Department of Speech at LSU in the summer of 1968. That fall, she joined the faculty as an assistant professor and began a distinguished career in oral interpretation and performance studies. For more than 20 years, her textbook, “Performing Literature” (co-authored with Beverly Whitaker Long), was a popular introductory text for students of oral interpretation. She also gained a national reputation as a pioneering scholar in narrative theory, Southern fiction and the place of literature in performance studies.
Her articles have appeared in the Quarterly Journal of Speech, Text and Performance Quarterly, Communication Education, Literature in Performance, Communication Monographs, Central States Speech Journal, and the Southern States Speech Journal. HopKins’ scholarship played a major role in defining the field. Her invited essays appear in both historical and contemporary surveys of interpretation and performance studies.
Over the years, HopKins served her department, the university, the field of performance studies and the broader discipline of communication studies with unparalleled distinction. She was appointed assistant dean of the LSU Graduate School from 1979-1982 and served as chair of the department from 1982-1991. She held numerous offices outside of LSU, including chair of the National Communication Association, of NCA, Finance Board; chair of the NCA Performance Studies Division; and president of the Southern States Communication Association.
From 1983-1986, HopKins was editor of Literature in Performance. She also served on the editorial boards of Literature in Performance, Text and Performance Quarterly, Communication Education, Speech Teacher, and the Southern Speech Communication Journal. In recognition of her exceptional career as a scholar, teacher and administrator, HopKins received the honors of Alumni Professor and Professor Emerita in 1991 and 1996, respectively. In 2002, the Black Box theatre at LSU was named the HopKins Black Box in her honor and in celebration of her remarkable career. The theatre itself, where thousands of students and audience members have experimented with performing texts and images, is part of her rich legacy.
Throughout her career, HopKins viewed performance studies as both a critical discipline and a performing art. Her insight is evident in the artistry with which she crafted her many public performances and presentations. Over the years, she adapted, directed or performed in more than 30 pieces. Of particular note is the memorable duet performance of Flannery O’Connor’s “Everything Rises Must Converge,” which she performed with her colleague, the late Bill Harbin.
In 2002, HopKins performed the role of Katherine Anne Porter in Laura Furman and Lynn Miller’s one-person play, “Passenger on the Ship of Fools,” which premiered at the University of Texas. Later that same year, HopKins reprised the performance at LSU in the HopKins Black Box. HopKins also has graced the stage as an invited lecturer or critic at numerous performance and communication studies conferences and festivals.
In 2005, she delivered the prestigious Giles Wilkerson Gray Lecture, which was held in association with the Southern States Communication Association convention in Baton Rouge. In her address, “Tell It Slant,” she combined her piercing intellect with her gracious good humor to offer a challenge to educators, in all disciplines, regarding the value of literature in creating ethical knowledge.