September 15, 1924 - November 27, 2007

Sy M. Kahn passed away on November 27 at his home in Port Townsend, Washington in the company of loving friends and family. Dr. Kahn was born in New York City and attended public schools there through high school. He studied at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Connecticut, and earned his doctorate in American and English Literature at the University of Wisconsin in 1957. His doctoral dissertation was the first critical biography of author Glenway Wescott, and it included consideration of the American expatriate writers of the 1920s.

He taught for thirty-seven years at various colleges and universities in the United States and Europe. As professor of English and Drama at the University of the Pacific, he founded the Drama Department as an academic discipline in 1970. For many years he chaired the department and also served as Executive Director of the summer repertory program at Fallon House Theatre, from 1970 to 1984.

Under the auspices of the United States Information Service (USIS), the UOP Drama Department performed in Germany, Austria and Yugoslavia each winter term from 1972 through 1975. He directed and led these tours of contemporary American plays and improvisational theatre, giving 74 performances in 46 European cities.

He retired from the University of the Pacific in 1986, and received the "Order of the Pacific," the university's highest academic honor in 1987. At that time the Fulbright Commission cited Dr. Kahn as a "sensitive and judicious American" for advancing international understanding during his tenure as professor of American literature with four Fulbright grants to universities in Greece (1958-9), Poland (1966-7), Austria (1970-71) and Portugal (1985-86).

He was Associate Editor of the Beloit Poetry Journal, author or co-author of seven books of poetry, and co-editor and contributor for the book Interculture which is a selection of essays and poetry by Fulbright scholars, and editor of Devour the Fire, a selection of poems by Harry Crosby. He has published over 35 scholarly articles and essays in literary journals, encyclopedia, and books of literary criticism. He wrote three produced plays and directed more than 350 productions for academic, civic and commercial theatres.

His book Between Tedium and Terror: A Soldier's WWII Diary, 1943-45 was published by University of Illinois Press in 1993. One of the few published WWII diaries, since keeping a journal was forbidden by military regulations, the diary documents life during four campaigns and over 300 air attacks in the South Pacific. It describes the 244th Port Company's backbreaking work of loading and unloading ships, the suffocating heat, the debilitating tropical diseases, and the relentless, sometimes terrifying bombings, accidents, casualties, and deaths. A record of the daily cost of war, the journal also reflects the author's increasing maturity and his personal coming of age, representative of thousands of young Americans who served in World War II.

After his retirement from Pacific, Sy Kahn continued to direct plays, lecture, teach, perform and write. He was a guest professor twice at the University of Wales, Swansea, and at Justis Liebig Universitat in Germany. For the last 15 years, Sy Kahn and his wife Janet have lived in Port Townsend, Washington, where he also served as President of the Key City Players, as a member of the Port Townsend Arts Commission, and was awarded Port Townsend's "Angel of the Arts" in 2003.

Sy is survived by Janet Baker Kahn his wife and partner of 31 years, his son David, daughter-in-law Kathy, and grandsons Daniel and Jeremy, all of whom will miss him deeply. Kahn was previously married to Nancy Dennis Casazza and Marion Belefant Kahn.

Celebrations of Dr. Kahn's life took place December 16, 2007 in Port Townsend, and February 10, 2008 in Stockton, CA. Contributions in his name may be made to the "Sy Kahn Scholarship Fund" at the University of the Pacific Theatre Department, to the Hospice Program of Jefferson Health Care in Port Townsend, WA, or to an organization of choice.


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