In Memoriam

Featured obituaries from recent print editions of Mills Quarterly. (Visit our Issuu page to read In Memoriam in its entirety.) To submit listings for a future issue, please contact alumnae-relations@mills.edu or 510.430.2123.

Professor Emerita of Studio Art Hung Liu 

(Frederic Larson)

The prolific, esteemed artist Hung Liu, who taught studio art at Mills from 1990 to 2013, died in Oakland on August 7.
 
Multiple exhibitions of her work were planned or underway at the time of her death, including at the de Young Museum in San Francisco and the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. The striking portraits she painted elevated the experiences of the Chinese and Chinese American working class and immigrant populations, harkening back to her own time growing up in China during Mao’s rule, the Great Leap Forward, and the Cultural Revolution. 

Liu first came to the United States in 1984 to study at the University of California, San Diego, with a full scholarship. Not long after finishing her studies there, she arrived at Mills where she remained for 24 years. Pieces of hers have appeared in the Mills College Art Museum (MCAM) as part of a joint exhibition with the Oakland Museum of California. 

Liu was “fearless and generous, an inspirational teacher, mentor, and internationally recognized artist beloved by students, colleagues, and curators,” said Stephanie Hanor, director of MCAM. “Her work always feels authentic and resonates with a wide audience yet comes from her own very personal perspective as an immigrant, feminist, and artist.” 

She is survived by her husband, Jeff Kelley. 


Professor Emerita Moira Roth 

A renowned and beloved professor at Mills, who retired as the Eugene E. Trefethen Professor of Contemporary Art History in 2017 after 32 years on the faculty, Moira Roth died on June 14 in Albany, California. 

Moira was born and raised in Europe, attending Vienna University and the London School of Economics before relocating to the United States. She then moved her studies to NYU and UC Berkeley, earning her PhD with a dissertation on Marcel Duchamp. She came to Mills in 1985, but throughout her career, she edited a wide range of titles, including Amazing Decade: Women & Performance Art in America, 1970-1980; Connecting Conversations: Interviews with 28 Bay Area Women Artists; and We Flew Over the Bridge: The Memoirs of Faith Ringgold. She also wrote for publications such as Archives of American Art Journal; Artforum; and Nka, Journal of Contemporary African Art.
 
Students and coworkers alike delighted in Moira’s buoyant personality. In her memory, her compatriots at the Faculty & Staff Club raised a glass in her honor. “If you had the good fortune to encounter Moira, you too were lifted by her joy and independent spirit,” wrote President Elizabeth L. Hillman in announcing Roth’s death. “She welcomed generations of artists, students, and faculty to Mills College and inspired all of us.” 

One of Roth’s favorite (and final) projects was The Library of Maps, which was a collection of 41 texts about a fictional library. She delighted in sharing this work with her many friends at Mills. 


Sister Mary Joseph of the Trinity/Mary “Ann” Russell Miller ’50 

On the weekend of June 6-7, the Twittersphere erupted with the news of the death of an unusual woman: Sister Mary Joseph of the Trinity. As related by her son, Mark Miller, Sister Mary Joseph said goodbye to her life as a San Francisco socialite at the age of 61 and entered a Carmelite monastery in Illinois in 1989, living the remainder of her life behind the stone walls and never touching her family members again. 

Missing in the ensuing coverage was that Sister Mary Joseph was a Mills woman. Mary “Ann” Russell Miller was a member of the Class of 1950, though she left the College early to marry her late husband, Richard. Her post-Mills, pre-convent life saw her give birth to 10 children and raise them in Pacific Heights, where her husband was chair of the San Francisco Opera Foundation and she rubbed elbows with the glitterati. 

She was also a dedicated volunteer and fundraiser, founding the Northern California chapter of the organization Achievement Rewards for College Students, and unsurprisingly, she was a devout Catholic. A 2005 article in the San Francisco Chronicle reported that she once gave up the phone for Lent, a tough choice for someone as social as she. 

Before leaving for the monastery, Sister Mary Joseph threw a farewell bash for 800 guests at the San Francisco Hilton and distributed her jewels among her daughters. She spent the rest of her life in near silence, sleeping on a thin mat and asking forgiveness for her habitual lateness. She could only visit with family and friends from behind metal bars, never holding many of the 28 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren who also survive her. 


Ravenna Helson 

Ravenna Helson, pioneering research psychologist at UC Berkeley’s Institute for Personality and Social Research, died this past spring. She studied the Mills classes of 1958 and 1960 for more than 50 years, with her resulting study yielding more than 100 research articles about women’s personality, creativity, and development. It culminated in a book, Women on the River of Life: A Fifty-Year Study of Adult Development, published by UC Press in 2020. 

In the early years, the study was conceptualized as about women’s creativity and leadership potential. In 1980, it shifted to an adult developmental perspective, contacting the participants about every 10 years into their 70s. Research focused on personality change, work, marriage, parenting, wisdom, creativity, and purpose in life. 

Ravenna thoroughly knew the stories and the personalities of all 142 Mills participants—she was even made an honorary member of the Class of 1960! Her soft Southern style combined with rigorous scholarly standards and a great enthusiasm for exploring what it meant to be a woman at this time in history. 

She is survived by three children. 


Diana O’Hehir

A longtime professor at Mills and the former Aurelia Reinhardt Chair in American Literature, Diana O’Hehir died in San Francisco on January 19.

Though O’Hehir attended UC Berkeley, she did not graduate, instead leaving to work as a labor organizer and activist in Washington, DC. There, she met her first (and third!) husband, Mel Fiske. After their first split, she returned to California and married Irish scholar Brendan O’Hehir. She began teaching at Mills in 1961, despite not holding an undergraduate degree, and eventually finished her Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins in 1970.

Thus began her career as a writer. Her first collection of poetry won the Nevins Award in 1975, and her first novel, I Wish This War Were Over, was nominated for a Pulitzer in 1984. In all, she wrote at least nine poetry collections and five novels.

At Mills, her creative writing seminars and courses on Paris during the 1920s were wildly popular. One of her sons, Andrew O’Hehir, spent time in her classroom as a teenager. “For a young man on the verge of adulthood, that offered immensely valuable lessons in the importance of women’s equality and the values of feminism, which added a richness and understanding to my life I might never have gained otherwise,” he said.

She is survived by two sons and three grandchildren.


Carol Tucker Trelease ’65

Carol’s daughters, Sarah Tuchler McElvaney and Ada Tuchler Portman, submit these memories of their mother with the assistance of Cynthia Lee Beeman ’66.

Carol Tucker Trelease, died on December 9, 2020, of causes unrelated to Covid-19. She was known for her happy disposition, kindness to others, her unwavering drive to fight for social justice and reproductive rights—and polite honesty.

Photo by Dean Hanson/Journal

Born in Santa Cruz in 1943, Carol grew up in Northern California. The first in her family to attend college, she earned her bachelor of arts in Spanish from Mills College in 1965, graduating Phi Beta Kappa and with a Fulbright Scholarship. She spent a year studying literature at the University of Cordoba in Argentina. After marrying her first husband, Robin Tuchler, she went on to teach Spanish in Colorado where Robin attended medical school. To fulfill his military obligation, Robin joined the Public Health Service and the couple moved to the Navaho Indian reservation in Crownpoint, New Mexico, where they began their family. They subsequently relocated to Albuquerque in 1974 with their three daughters.

Carol devoted her life to fighting for equality and helping people help themselves. She was the CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rio Grande (PPNM) for more than 20 years, working to ensure that women could plan their families and control their destinies. During her tenure, Carol guided the agency through sustained growth in terms of services offered and number of clinics opened statewide—emphasizing education.  She enabled PPNM to purchase a permanent property for the agency’s offices and establish its first endowment fund. Her achievements also garnered her share of detractors. Of the harassment, phone calls, and letters from abortion opponents, she told Carrie Seidman of the Albuquerque Journal, “I believe in free speech for everybody.  Violence, however, I find disgusting”… “These are not liberal or conservative issues, they go across the board. What I would like to see is a coming together of people who care about children.”

As a promise to her second husband, Richard Trelease, Carol retired early in the late 1990s and they traveled the world as planned.  When Richard died in 2005, Carol was offered an incredible second opportunity to serve as executive director: she took the reins of the Nirvana Manana Institute, a foundation making grants to support a sustainable population. Carol became, according to the founder, “the true heartbeat.” She also traveled with Albuquerque International and continued her civic involvement as an active board member and tireless advocate for Planned Parenthood, the League of Women Voters, the Senior Citizens’ Law Office, ACLU, St. John’s Cathedral, and St John’s Thrift Shop.  Purchasing many of her clothes at the Thrift Shop, she would exclaim to friends, kiddingly, “How do I look?  St. John’s Thrift!” 

Carol was highly respected as an effective fundraiser and lobbyist at the New Mexico and Washington DC legislatures. Friends have called her “a legend” and remarked on her effective leadership style.  She cared a lot about others and gave so much to so many. Carol Tucker Trelease will be interred alongside her late husband, the Rev. Bishop Richard Trelease, in St. John’s Cathedral in Albuquerque.  A benefit memorial concert will be held in her honor when we are able to gather together again safely.


Katherine “Kate” McGinity, MA ’10

Adjunct Professor of Dance Kate McGinity, who also earned a master’s in dance from Mills in 2010, died of cancer on January 12. She is survived by her husband, Chris Griffin, a lighting designer with Mills Performing Arts.

Kate had taught at Mills ever since she graduated, elevating the Dance Cultures class she took over from department chair (and her former teacher) Ann Murphy, as well as working with students in pedagogy and ballet courses. She was developing a comprehensive pedagogy program within the department at the time of her death, which was to serve as a cornerstone of a future dance credential, and she had one more course to complete to take her MA to an MFA.

A professional ballet dancer, Kate performed with the Eugene Ballet, State Street Ballet, and Inland Pacific Ballet, among other companies, but she was also renowned for her skills in tap dance and comedic timing. Her love of the comic mixed with the tragic led her to write her master’s thesis on the dances of Pina Bausch and the antics of clown Bill Irwin.

“Few could match Kate’s tough, funny, and deeply ethical style of teaching. Students adored her,” Murphy said. “Being part of the Dance and Theater Studies Department was exactly where she wanted and loved to be. Her loss is immeasurable.”


Sharon Robinson ’14, MPP ’15

Sharon Robinson, the first-ever recipient of the Alumnae of Color (AOCC) Committee’s Endowed Scholarship—and the only one to receive it twice—died on December 24, 2020, in San Leandro. She is survived by her partner, Rahman Batin; five brothers; and many nieces and nephews.

The eighth of nine children, Sharon enrolled in the BA/MPP program at Mills in her 50s after a career as an entrepreneur and activist (including with the West Oakland Community Collaborative and the United Way of the Bay Area). She was fiercely dedicated to educational equity and took her degrees to her work with the Oakland Public Education Fund, where she led the development of Oakland Unified School District’s Central Kitchen, Instructional Farm, and Education Center, with the goal of tying nutrition to education programs and preparing 35,000 meals a day for students.

She will be remembered for her advocacy; her love of travel, adventure sports, and African drumming; and the family reunions she organized that brought people together from around the world. And through Sharon’s continuing work with the AOCC to raise funds for the Endowed Scholarship, she strove to ensure that other Mills students of color had the same opportunities she did: “I remember her saying on numerous occasions that contributing to our scholarship was making an investment,” said Lynette Castille-Hall ’75. “An investment in a student just like herself.”


Lenn Keller ’84

A groundbreaking photographer, archivist, and Mills volunteer, Lenn Keller died on December 16, 2020, in Oakland.

The Class of 1984 knew Lenn as an enthusiastic class secretary, but the LGBTQ+ community knew her as a trailblazer. After growing up in Chicago and exploring photography with other Black artists in Harlem, Lenn moved to California in 1975. She eventually made her way to San Francisco and then to Berkeley, becoming involved in the Bay Area’s fledgling queer movement and documenting it for the ages, particularly Black lesbian activism.

The artistic skills she picked up in New York came in handy as she shot photos and videos of the movement, from protests to Pride, that were later exhibited to the public in shows such as Queer California: Untold Stories at the Oakland Museum of California in 2019. Lenn enrolled at Mills in the early ’80s to bolster her documentary skills with a degree in communications, later making several films—including one that remains unfinished.

It was in 2014 that Lenn co-founded the Bay Area Lesbian Archives, a repository of materials that she herself had collected over the years. A permanent location is still in the works. “Marginalized histories are often not documented,” she said to the San Francisco Chronicle in 2018. “This history is very important, not just for posterity, but it’s important for us now.”

Just months before Lenn died of cancer, she traveled back to Chicago to care for her brother, Otis, who succumbed to it himself on August 21. She is survived by one other brother and her daughter, Nakiya.


Peggy Constance Woodruff ’58

Peggy was born in Orlando, Florida, and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. She entered Mills in 1954 during a turbulent time in our nation’s history: Schools had recently been desegregated by the Supreme Court, and the civil rights movement was prominent nationwide. After graduating in 1958, Peggy continued to involve herself in social justice and civil rights issues for many years. She moved to the Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco in the ’60s and was involved in city politics. She was even photographed by Life magazine in an article about “quaint” San Francisco life. She was the administrator for substance-abuse service contracts for the City and County of San Francisco.

After the loss of her parents and sister, Peggy decided to research her family background and became a genealogist, establishing a business called Family Roots to research African American families. She traveled by train to Florida many times to research her family background. Peggy also traveled extensively in Europe and briefly lived in Mexico City.

Peggy lived in Marin for a number of years, where she farmed acres of fruit trees and grew vegetables. After moving to Oakland, she was employed as director of the West Berkeley Health Center and later worked as an independent contractor and grant writer for service agencies. In later years, she was a founding member of the Mills Alumnae of Color Committee and served as its co-chair from 1999 to 2006. In 2003, Peggy secured the College’s first Smithsonian Art Exhibit, Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers from 1840-Present.

Peggy died in Oakland on September 18, 2020.


Diana Russell, professor emerita of women’s studies 

Diana Russell, one of the first teachers of women’s studies at Mills, died on July 28, 2020, in Oakland. Born and raised in South Africa, Russell witnessed the oppression enacted by the Afrikaner police state, which shaped her scholarship: After receiving a master’s degree in political science from the London School of Economics, she attended Harvard University for her PhD, studying sociology and the history of revolution. 

It was then, in 1969, that she arrived at Mills as a sociology professor. In her first year, she was the co-instructor on the first woman-focused course at the College, which led to the formation of the women’s studies program—among the first in the US. In the 22 years she taught at Mills, she continually pushed against misogyny with actions such as helping put together the first-ever International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women in Brussels, Belgium; founding organizations such as Women Against Violence in Pornography and Media, and Feminists’ Anti-Nuclear Group; and coining and politicizing the word “femicide.” Russell documented all of this work throughout many books and articles. 

She also continued protesting using bold methodology, something she learned in her home country. Russell was known to spray-paint feminist sayings on businesses known for their sexism, stage sit-ins at government offices, and destroy magazines in porn shops. 

In recent years, Russell shifted her attention to writing her memoirs, which she did not finish. Read more about them on her website, dianarussell.com. She is survived by a sister and an extensive community of friends, admirers, and women who were saved by her work.