The English Dept. lost a colleague this past December when retired professor Lee Bliss died of lung cancer.
Bliss passed away Dec. 8, 2006, at the age of 63 after a prolonged battle with lung cancer. English Professor Patricia Fumerton said Bliss’ cancer returned in 2005 after she had undergone surgery and radiation treatment.
“The cancer returned in the fall of 2005, I believe, and she thus retired,” Fumerton said.
According to the English Dept. website, Bliss had taught at UCSB since 1975 and her interests ranged from Renaissance literature to modern drama. She also lectured at UC Los Angeles, Occidental College and Scripps College.
Bliss’ brother, John Bliss, said she received her undergraduate education at Stanford and went to UC Berkeley for her Ph.D.
He said his sister cared greatly about her students and the lessons they learned from her classes.
“She was very interested in student academic performance,” Bliss said. “She believed very strongly in really helping students learn the subject matter she was teaching. She wasn’t just there to ramble on about her subject.”
Tassie Gniady, a graduate student in the English Dept., said she and Bliss continued to work together on her dissertation throughout Bliss’ battle with cancer.
“Even when she was very sick, her first question to me when I came through the door would be about the progress of my dissertation,” Gniady said. “She helped to me to hash out some strategies for my first chapter and was always interested in what I was working on.”
John Bliss said her health was a major determining factor in her coming to UCSB.
“She had always had respiratory problems so she needed to be careful about where she went,” John Bliss said. “It had to be an area that would be conducive to her respiratory issues.”
Fumerton said Bliss enjoyed her retirement by actively volunteering for Child Abuse Listening and Mediation, a nonprofit organization that provides resources to abused children. She also worked with the Accelerated Study Access Program, which allows qualified high school students to enroll as freshmen at UCSB.
“Professor Bliss did not just give up in retiring, but actively embraced volunteer work at ASAP and CALM and heartily pursued her hobbies of cooking and opera,” Fumerton said.
John Bliss said his sister organized a group within CALM that babysat the children of battered mothers while they attended classes. He said she also worked with a group that took in foster kittens until they were old enough to be adopted.
A memoriam on the English Dept. website states that the Bliss family suggests donations be directed to CALM and ASAP in lieu of flowers.
Fumerton said Bliss’ personality called for a smaller, more intimate memorial service for her passing.
“Lee Bliss was a very private person,” Fumerton said. “And those of us who were close to her believe she would not want a formal memorial service.”
Fumerton said an informal recognition was held shortly after she passed away and that there will be a small memorial in February.