Bryn Mawr Mourns Passing of Professor Emeritus of Philosophy George L. Kline

Posted October 30th, 2014 at 10:47 am.

The following email was sent to faculty, students, and staff by President Kim Cassidy on Tuesday, October 28.

To Members of the Campus Community:

It is with sadness that we mark the death of Milton C. Nahm Professor Emeritus of Philosophy George L. Kline, who passed away on October 23 at the age of 93.  Philosopher and scholar of Russian literature, translator and mentor, Professor Kline touched the experience of students and colleagues across generations and around the world.

Born in 1921, Professor Kline enrolled at Boston College and studied there until enlisting in the Army Air Force as the U.S. entered World War II.  During the war he served as a bomber navigator, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1944.  After the war he resumed his education at Columbia, where he quickly completed his A.B. (1947), A.M. (1948), and Ph.D. (1950).

Professor Kline joined the Bryn Mawr faculty in 1959 after teaching in both the philosophy and Russian Departments at Columbia University and at the University of Chicago.  He continued teaching in both fields at Bryn Mawr, where he was appointed Associate Professor in 1960 and Professor in 1966, and was named the first recipient of the Milton C. Nahm Chair in Philosophy in 1981.

Michael Krausz, current holder of the Nahm Chair, recalls that “as a philosopher, [Professor Kline] was encyclopedic, with special concentrations in Russian philosophy, continental philosophy, analytic philosophy, political philosophy, phenomenology in Marxist materialism, Nietzschean Marxism, the work of Benedict Spinoza, Alfred North Whitehead and more.”  His publications in philosophy included Spinoza in Soviet Philosophy (1952), Religious and Anti-Religious Thought in Russia (The Weil Lectures) (1968), and more than 100 articles and book chapters.  His work was supported by many fellowships (Fulbright, Ford, Rockefeller, Guggenheim, and the National Endowment for the Humanities), and he served as president of the Hegel Society and the Metaphysical Society of America and as a member of the board of directors of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies.

Professor of Russian Dan Davidson notes that Professor Kline also contributed generously to the academic life of the Russian Department throughout his career at Bryn Mawr, and even served as department chair for three years.  Professor Kline was a leading authority on Russian philosophy, and translated major works of Russian literature, including work by Boris Pasternak, Leo Tolstoy, and most notably, the poet Joseph Brodsky.  In 1964 when visiting Warsaw, Professor Kline read a clandestine copy of one of Joseph Brodsky’s early poems.  He ultimately met Brodsky in Leningrad in the late 1960s, and smuggled Brodsky’s poems out of the Soviet Union for publication in the West.  Professor Kline remained a close colleague of Brodsky’s after the poet was exiled in 1972, and in 1974 he was translator and provided the introduction to Joseph Brodsky:  Selected Poems.  Professor Kline was Brodsky’s guest when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1987, and the poet came to Bryn Mawr to speak at Professor Kline’s retirement symposium in 1991.

In 2003, a generous alumna created the George Kline Fellowships in his honor to support research travel to Russia for undergraduate and graduate students.

Many former colleagues, including Rufus M. Jones Professor and Chair of Philosophy Bob Dostal, note that Professor Kline was an exceptionally generous mentor to students and younger colleagues. Professor Emeritus of Russian George Pahomov adds, “He was one of the kindest, most modest, and most generous people in our profession.  A polymath, he was at home in Russian, German, and French, and he became the primary interpreter of Russian philosophy for the Western world.”

Professor Kline spent the last years of his life in South Carolina, and continued to support younger colleagues until the last months of his life.  Professor Kline’s passing is a loss for Bryn Mawr and for his colleagues and friends.  Services for Professor Kline have not yet been set, but will be announced by The McDougall Funeral Home in Anderson, SC.

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