In memoriam: Colleagues and former students remember Frances Kaneene

Supporting MSU students for more than 30 years as an advisor in academics and life.

Frances Kaneene was an academic advisor in the Department of Community Sustainability. She retired in January 2020.
Frances Kaneene was an academic advisor in the Department of Community Sustainability. She retired in January 2020.

Frances Kaneene, who served as an admired undergraduate academic advisor in the Michigan State University (MSU) College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) for more than three decades, passed away on Aug. 12, 2020.

“Her passion for wanting to help students far surpassed any of the formal student success activities. She went beyond policies to purposes,” said Dorcia Chaison, CANR assistant dean of academic advising and student success. “She was a very practical-minded person who had a sheer passion for helping students.”

Born and raised in Jinja, Uganda, Kaneene came to the United States in 1973 to attend the University of Wisconsin where she earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration. She and her husband moved to Michigan in 1979, where she worked as an accountant for Coca-Cola as well as for the Greater Lansing Board of Realtors.

In 1990, Kaneene joined MSU where she found her true passion working with thousands of students over her long-standing career as an undergraduate advisor. She retired in January 2020 from the Department of Community Sustainability (CSUS) having established an obvious talent for helping young people build their confidence, reach their potential and achieve their dreams.

“Frances will be missed. She was dedicated and committed to serving students,” said Phillip Seaborn, CANR assistant director for undergraduate diversity. “She created the home-away-from-home atmosphere that many students need transitioning to college. Her legacy will live on through the hundreds of lives she touched in higher education. Gone, but never forgotten.”

Eunice Foster, professor in the Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences, also reflected on Kaneene’s hospitality in helping students adjust to life on campus beyond academics.

“I witnessed Frances’ caring personality firsthand when a group of us collaborated on welcoming and helping a group of young ladies to MSU from Gashora Girls School in Rwanda,” said Foster. “Frances swooped in like a mother hen and led the charge assisting the young ladies with cell phones, bedding, a welcome dinner and much more. We all helped, but Frances was in charge in her quiet, loving manner.”

In honor of Kaneene’s significant contributions, MSU established an endowment called the Frances Kaneene Study Abroad Scholarship fund in her legacy. The fund helps MSU students with study aboard opportunities, following in Kaneene’s love of travel and learning about different cultures, people and food.

“Frances was a great advocate for study abroad and would do everything within her power to ‘make it happen’ for her students,” said Rhonda Crackel, CANR director of study abroad.

Chaison, who works closely with the academic advisors in CANR, recalled Kaneene’s commitment to students as whole people.

“There were so many instances where she wasn’t afraid to go against the grain to help students,” Chaison said. “She was the true embodiment of Spartans Will.”

The CSUS and CANR student advising community feels the loss of Kaneene as a colleague, mentor and friend. Some of her colleagues shared the following thoughts and memories of her.

  • “Amazing person and advisor! She always put students first.” – Michael Everett, CSUS academic advisor
  • “Our Advising World was just a small part that has been affected by the loss of our Frances. She was a hero to many Spartans and the world.” – Jeane Stebleton, CSUS academic advisor
  • “Frances was my mentor, colleague and dear friend. Her loving kindness was only one of the many gifts she gave to those of us fortunate enough to have known her.” – Ruthi Bloomfield, retired Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics academic advisor
  • “Frances was one of the most welcoming people I have known. She radiated a joy and warmth that indicated her welcoming spirit. She walked everywhere – so being able to accompany her to or from a meeting was a highlight in my day. She always made time for you, and allowed you to bring your authentic self – because she was always hers. Frances elevated everyone around her.” – Jessica Kiesling, Department of Animal Science academic advisor
  • “She was without question the kindest person I have ever worked with at MSU. She always made whomever she was working with feel as though they were the most important person to her. I will miss her greatly.” – Karen Waite, Department of Animal Science and Institute of Agricultural Technology director of undergraduate education and horse management certificate program coordinator
  • “It was an honor for me to be one of Frances’ students and then colleagues. She touched so many lives. She pushed us to be and do better. I'll remember the warmth of her smile and the genuine care she showed for her students. She set a benchmark for the rest of us.” – Dustin DuFort Petty, Bailey Scholars Program academic advisor
  • “Frances was a humble, gentle force of nature. I'm thankful that her eyes opened wide for a moment when I saw her last. I like to think that she was saying, ‘You'll be alright. Carry on.’” – Susan DeRosa, retired School of Planning Design and Construction academic advisor
  • “It was an honor to call Frances my friend. She made those in her presence feel warm and welcome. Always. Her spirit and determination were nothing short of admirable. Frances was as vibrant as the colorful clothes she wore. The world will be a lot less bright without her in it.” – Jennifer Knowles, School of Planning Design and Construction academic advisor

Read more about Frances Kaneene (1953-2020).

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