Original article: “The College Remembers Beloved Professor Conseula Francis“
Conseula Francis, associate provost and professor of English and African American Studies at the College of Charleston, passed away on May 9, 2016, following a brief illness.
Francis earned a Ph.D from the University of Washington and began teaching in the Department of English at the College in 2002. In 2007, she was appointed director of the African American Studies Program. In July 2015, she joined the Office of Academic Affairs as associate provost for curriculum and institutional resources.
She is survived by her husband, Brian McCann, and two daughters, Frances and Catherine (Cate) McCann.
In an announcement to the campus community, Provost Brian McGee remembered Francis’ many talents.
“She was a formidable intellect who could make a hard day shorter and a difficult meeting easier. There was no burden she could not lighten, no path she could not straighten, by applying her unique combination of good humor and keen insight.”
Patricia Williams Lessane, executive director of the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture, was very close to Francis as a friend and faculty colleague.
“Conseula epitomizes Black girl magic,“ said Lessane. “She was a lover of the magic we as Black women wield with our pens and the sacred whispers, secrets, and incantations that our foremothers have used throughout the ages to keep our families safe, to lift up one another, and strengthen the ties that bind us together. She was sweet, humble, kind, and brilliant. She was and is my sister and my friend.”
Francis’ scholarly work focused on American and African American literature, but she explored many genres, including science fiction, graphic novels and romance. She was also a passionate fan of all things Star Wars, an intense interest that she once described as an “irrational love.”
In fact, it was her interest in Star Wars that turned her on to the science fiction writing of Octavia Butler. Francis was the author of The Critical Reception of James Baldwin and the editor of Conversations with Octavia Butler.
“There are few words to express the significance of the loss of Conseula Francis to our College of Charleston family,” said College of Charleston President Glenn F. McConnell ’69. “Professor Francis was a remarkable human being – a passionate educator, a professor’s professor, and a true student advocate. She devoted her life to the pursuit of knowledge and had a tremendous impact on the many lives she touched, mine included. Conseula leaves a wonderful legacy behind at the College, and she will be greatly missed.”
Friends and colleagues on Monday took to the College’s internal social network to express their sorrow and to share fond memories of Francis.
Scott Peeples, professor and chair of the Department of English, said he was awed by Francis’ innate ability to connect with her students.
“Conseula’s humor, her candor, and her dedication to students inspired us all in the English Department and across campus. I don’t think I’ve ever worked with a teacher whose classroom instincts were as strong or who had the kind of impact she had on students. I can’t tell you how many times I heard or read the words `changed my life’ in reference to Conseula’s teaching,” said Peeples. “The word `passion’ is a little over-used these days, but Conseula had more of it than anyone I’ve ever known, for her students, her family, her friends, and for life itself.”
Claire Curtis, professor of political science, and Larry Krasnoff, professor of philosophy, said the College and the community have lost an extraordinary human being.
“Her extraordinary combination of intellect, wit, kindness, and fierce moral integrity will never be forgotten by those fortunate enough to have worked and studied with her,” said Curtis and Krasnoff. “Her loss leaves holes in the fabric of our institution and in the hearts of those who knew her that will be virtually impossible to fill.”
Francis, who was honored with the College’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 2011, was instrumental in the development and launch of the College’s African American Studies major in 2014. She explained the importance of starting such a program in a 2012 interview with College of Charleston Magazine.
“Charleston is too important in the history and culture of the African diaspora for us to ignore. We should be educating our students about that history and training them to document, preserve and tell that history themselves,” she said. “A major in African American studies will also help prepare students to live and work in diverse communities, whether it is the community right around us here at the College, or other communities anywhere in the world.”