Alan Rocke’s 22-year friendship with Christine Cano began with a single question.
Then a first-year faculty member at Case Western Reserve, Cano had approached the endowed professor of history after a research presentation. Her “penetrating” query was posed “with such intellectual intensity,” Rocke recalled, that the two ended up scheduling an additional discussion over coffee. And then another. Ultimately, she gave Rocke the “honor and privilege” of asking him to be her official pre-tenure mentor.
Today he is among the legions of friends, colleagues and former and current students mourning Cano’s Dec. 29 death after a fall earlier in the month. She was 60 years old.
“You could always count on Christine to say what she really thought, free of guile or pretense, and what she said was always worth listening to,” said Rocke, now a Distinguished University Professor Emeritus. “I will always cherish the memory of her bright intelligence, her quiet dignity and her sweet and gentle nature.”
A highly regarded scholar of French literature and culture, Cano published her first book, Proust’s Deadline, in 2006. It won widespread praise for the depth of its research and elegant succinctness of its prose, and continues to be cited today.
Her departmental colleague and friend, Susanne Vees-Gulani, called Cano “an important and respected scholar who enriched and advanced her field,” as well as an educator who “was able to awaken a love of French culture and language in generations of students that inspired them far beyond graduation.”
Cano brought comparable energy and insight to service at all levels of the university. In a message Friday to College of Arts and Sciences faculty and staff, Dean Joy Ward explained: “As a Faculty Senator, she spent untold hours on such tasks as extensively updating the body’s bylaws. When asked to lead or join important College or university committees, she invariably agreed. More, she completed assignments with utmost conscientiousness—including those that involved much work and little recognition.”
“She was respectful, polite, and generous,” added Cano’s department chair, Damaris Puñales–Alpízar. “She probably knew more about the by-laws and all the university policies than anyone else and was always willing to share her knowledge.”
While earning her undergraduate degree at Smith College, Cano spent her junior year at the Université Paris-Sorbonne. She went on to complete her doctorate at Yale University, then taught at Bates College and Virginia Tech before joining Case Western Reserve in 1999.
A decade later Cano met Francesca Brittan, a faculty member in the Department of Music. The pair found they shared affection for French culture and travel, Brittan said, as well as “quiet library stacks.” Cano not only served on many PhD committees for music doctoral students, Brittan recalled, but also attended campus concerts.
“Christine was passionate about the potential for multilingualism to open doors of understanding and empathy,” Brittan said, adding that her colleague was “thoughtful, elegant, resourceful, supportive [and] lovely.”
Vees-Gulani echoed those sentiments, emphasizing Cano’s commitment to recognizing the contributions of all members of the community, regardless of role. She also applauded Cano’s willingness to go “the extra mile to ensure that the university was a place where students and faculty could pursue their intellectual passions in a supportive environment.”
“We have lost not only a great colleague, professor, and scholar,” Puñales–Alpízar observed, “but also an extraordinary human being. “
The campus community will have an opportunity to remember Cano at a service to be scheduled after the semester starts. The Daily will provide details about the event when they become available.
Students who would like support during this difficult time are encouraged to contact counseling services at 216.368.5872. This line is staffed by a counselor 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Faculty and staff can also access counseling at any time by calling IMPACT Solutions at 1.800.227.6007; more information about their programs can be found at myimpactsolution.com using code cwrueap.