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Kennedy, Ruth Lee

Ruth Lee Kennedy

Ruth Lee Kennedy was born on October 15, 1895 in Centerville, Texas, the daughter of Oliver William Kennedy and Carrie Lee McWaters Kennedy. Professor Kennedy did her undergraduate and masters level education at the University of Texas in Austin (B.A., 1916; M.A., 1917) in Spanish language and literature. She did further graduate work at the University of California, Berkeley (1924-1925) before completing her Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania in 1931.

Professor Kennedy began her teaching career as a teacher of Spanish in the San Benito, Texas (1917-1918) and Temple, Texas (1918-1919) high schools. She served as an instructor in the Oklahoma College for Women (1918-1919), at Sam Houston State Teacher’s College (1920-1921), at the University of Puerto Rico (1921-1922), at Southwest Texas State Teacher’s College (1922-1926) and at San Antonio Junior College (1926-1930). Professor Kennedy was appointed to the Spanish Department at Smith College in 1930 and taught there until her retirement in 1961. She was made full professor in 1944, served as chair of the department and as head of the Smith Junior Year in Spain (1956-1958) during her tenure at Smith College. Also during those years she also taught at various colleges and universities in the United States and lectured both here in the United States and in Spain, England and Germany. She was the first American woman to lecture at Oxford and Cambridge universities in England. She received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1951 that allowed her to further her studies in Spanish literature, as well as fellowships from the American Association of University Women and the Jusserant traveling fellowship of the University of Pennsylvania.

After her retirement from Smith College in 1961, Professor Kennedy moved to Tucson, Arizona and assumed a professorship at the University of Arizona from which she retired in 1970. In 1979 Professor Kennedy was admitted to the Academia Norteamericana de la Lengua Espanola, the American branch of the Real Academia Espanola. Among her other honors was the Festschrift published in 1977, Studies in Honor of Ruth Lee Kennedy edited by Vern G. Williamsen and A. F. Michael Atlee (Chapel Hill, N.C. and Madrid). In retirement, Professor Kennedy continued to do research and publish.

In her lifetime Professor Kennedy was generally regarded as the world’s foremost scholar of the 17th century Spanish dramatist Tirso de Molina, who was the topic of one of her books, Studies in Tirso (1974), and of numerous articles. In addition to her book study of Tirso, Professor Kennedy also published the book The Dramatic Art of Moreto (1932); she published nearly 50 articles in her long career. She was a mentor to numerous younger scholars, a fact evident in the collected correspondence of these papers.

In retirement in Tucson, Professor Kennedy enjoyed gardening and was often cited for her gardens in Tucson publications. She died on February 4, 1988 at age 92 in Tucson. Her ashes were buried in the family plots in Houston, Texas.

The Ruth Lee Kennedy Fellowship at the University of Arizona and at Rice University is given to students of the Golden Age literature. At the University of Texas at Austin Professor Kennedy established two fellowships in honor of her parents: the Carrie Lee Kennedy Fellowship (for graduate students or undergraduate students of exceptionally outstanding ability who are studying Golden Age of Spanish Literature) and the Oliver William Kennedy Fellowship (for a graduate student or a faculty member for travel to Spain or other European countries to do research in the Golden Age of Spanish Literature). The Ruth Lee Kennedy/Fulbright travel grant is co-sponsored by the International Institute in Spain and the Commission of Cultural, Educative and Scientific Interchange between Spain and the United States is granted to Spanish women, lawyers or doctors who wish to carry out investigation projects or extended studies in a university in the United States.

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