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 Dance Becky Fuller, MA ’54

Rebecca “Becky” Fuller, MA ’54, a dancer, choreographer, and Mills College emerita professor, died on January 7 in Santa Rosa, California. Becky was a member of the dance faculty at Mills from 1955 to 1988. She taught the entire dance curriculum, including Saturday morning classes for children, and served as head of the Dance Department from 1981 to 1988.

Becky attended college at Michigan State University, then studied modern dance and choreography with Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, and Louis Horst at Connecticut College, and later, with Anna Halprin, on the West Coast. In 1952, she moved to Oakland, where she received her MA under Marian van Tuyl, Eleanor Lauer, and Doris Dennison. She joined the Dance Department as a faculty member, choreographing numerous works in collaboration with the renowned composer Darius Milhaud and visual artist Tony Prieto—including ’Adame Miroir (1963) and L’homme et son désir (1967). She made works for specific sites, such as Gallery Dance in the Mills College Art Museum in 1978, and Roof and Fire with Trisha Brown ’58 surrounding the Haas Pavilion in 1973. She also choreographed dances for fellow Mills dance faculty members Mary Ann Kinkead, Kathleen McClintock, and June Watanabe.

She was a beloved teacher of many young dancers who were inspired to pursue professional careers as performers/choreographers and teach in universities and their communities. Former students Brown and Molissa Fenley ’75 are internationally acclaimed dance artists. With another of her former students—Nancy Lyons, MA ’68; professor emerita in dance at Sonoma State University—Becky published dance resources that included The Moving Box, a tool kit for creative movement in primary, secondary, university, and community settings.

She was predeceased by her partner of many years, John Rinn, and will be deeply missed by her many friends and former students.


Wendyce “Wendy” Hull Brody ’68

A former member of the Board of Trustees and a prolific alumna volunteer, Wendy Hull Brody ’68 died on November 25, 2021, in Lake Placid, New York.

During her tenure on the Board of Trustees from 2007 to 2016, Wendy chaired a number of committees, including a presidential search committee. She was also an enthusiastic fundraiser who helped her peers from the Class of 1968 set a record for a 50th Reunion class in 2018, established several scholarship funds, and headed up alumnae groups in Palo Alto and San Diego.

Wendy graduated from Mills with double degrees in economics and sociology. Her career took her from SRI International in Palo Alto to the Social Security Administration in Washington, DC, where she wrote a seminal work: The Economic Value of a Housewife. Later ventures took her family to Baltimore, where former husband Bill served as president of Johns Hopkins and Wendy was on the board at the Walters Museum. The Brody Learning Commons at Johns Hopkins is named for the couple’s contributions. In retirement, the couple settled in San Diego, where Wendy volunteered with a number of organizations, including the Museum of Contemporary Art, the La Jolla Music Society, and the Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve.

She was notorious for her unlimited spirit and energy. Many will remember her athleticism in tennis, skiing, cycling, and hiking, and for wearing bright red lipstick while doing so.

Upon Wendy’s passing, President Elizabeth L. Hillman announced her death to the Board of Trustees in an email: “What I remember most about Wendy, notwithstanding her service and fierce commitment to Mills College, is her devotion to her family,” she said. Wendy is survived by two children, three grandchildren, and three siblings. A Bent Twig several generations removed, Wendy’s great-grandmother Elizabeth Johnson graduated from Mills Seminary in 1870.


Professor Emerita of Ethnic Studies Melinda Micco

A beloved and instrumental figure in the Ethnic Studies Program, who taught at Mills from 1993 to 2018, Melinda Micco died on December 5, 2021, in Oakland.

When she began at Mills, she was the only Indigenous member of the faculty, but in short order, she single-handedly championed better representation for her community on campus. Micco advocated for the planting of Indigenous healing plants across campus, and she organized the inaugural dinner for Native students in 1997. She also partnered with the group now known as the Indigenous Women’s Alliance to revive the Mills College Pow Wow, a student-driven event that annually brings people to campus from around Northern California.

Her research specialized in the intersections between American Indian and African American histories; for example, she published “Blood and Money”: The Case of Seminole Freedmen and Seminole Indians in Oklahoma based on interviews she conducted with the Black Seminole community. As ethnic studies chair, she also helped initiate the integration of Latinx and African Diaspora studies in the department. Upon Micco’s retirement from Mills in 2018, the Alumnae of Color Committee of the AAMC honored her as a Phenomenal Woman of Color.

In her later work on violence against Indigenous women, Micco partnered with Esther Lucero ’08, MA/MPP ’10, to direct a short film titled Killing the 7th Generation: Reproductive Abuses Against Native Women. All of these accomplishments built upon a most impressive entrance into academia: she enrolled at UC Berkeley as a 39-year-old single mother, and she graduated with her bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate within seven years. She is survived by two children and two grandchildren.


Hormoz Farhat, MA ’55

The renowned Iranian composer and violinist Hormoz Farhat, who earned an MA in composition at Mills in 1955, died on August 16, 2021, at his home in Rathmines, Ireland.

He was born in Tehran but came to the United States for his education, attending UCLA initially for his BA and later returning there to earn his PhD in musicology in 1965. Farhat began his academic career in the US as well, teaching at Cal State Long Beach and back at UCLA until 1969. At that point, he returned to his native country to take a position at the University of Tehran as professor and head of the music department. While there, he chaired the Music Council for the National Iranian Radio and Television Network, and played a pivotal role in the Shiraz Festival of Arts.

In January 1978, at the dawn of the Iranian Revolution, Farhat reached out to John Blacking at Queen’s University Belfast, where Farhat had given a series of seminars on traditional Persian music several years earlier. Blacking invited him to Belfast with a temporary appointment, and Farhat later applied for a permanent position on the faculty at Trinity College Dublin in 1982. Farhat taught there until his retirement in 1995.

His many compositions included film scores and pieces that have been performed around the world, and he wrote several books, including The Dastgah Concept in Persian Music. Farhat returned to Iran in May 2018, for the first time in 39 years, to attend a ceremony organized by the Iranian Artists Forum in honor of his distinguished career.

He is survived by his wife and a son.


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, 2021, 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, 2021.

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, 2021. 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.”