posted March 19, 2011

English Professor Jennifer Young Tait Dies

Dr. Jennifer Young Tait, a member of the Hope College English faculty since 2002, died Saturday (March 19) after suffering complications from premature childbirth.

The college has been advised that Professor Young began to feel unwell a few days ago. Her health began to deteriorate and she was taken to Grand Rapids for more advanced care. Her baby - Solomon - was delivered early and the college has been told that while he is small he is otherwise healthy and being care for at DeVos Children's Hospital.

"Jennifer Young was a fine teacher-scholar who modeled for students what it meant to find joy in learning. She was a wonderful mentor, a valued colleague, and a trusted friend. Her loss will be felt far beyond the confines of the English Department. Indeed, the entire Hope College community will miss her terribly," said Hope College Provost Richard Ray.

"Jennifer Young loved teaching, and she loved literature. I can't imagine a more joyful colleague, a more devoted professor, or a more promising scholar. I worked with her in Holland, Michigan, and in Liberia, West Africa; Jennifer was a star in whatever company she entered. She was my friend, and I will miss her terribly," said Dr. David Klooster, chair of the Department of English.

Added colleague Dr. Julie Kipp, Professor of English: "Jennifer was a devoted scholar, who loved to do research, and who was always juggling multiple writing projects, including creative writing projects. She was a gifted teacher, who started classes off with musical jam sessions as a way to create good energy and always thanked students for their comments in discussion. She was an amazing wife, daughter, sister, aunt, niece, granddaughter, goddaughter, and friend. She believed in ghosts. She loved music, yoga, old jewelry, chocolate martinis (in moderation), and raptivist music. She was incredibly excited about becoming a mother."

Hope College began its spring break on Friday so college officials have been communicating this news to faculty, staff and students by email.

The Hope College Class of 2008 named Dr. Young the recipient of the "Hope Outstanding Professor Educator" (H.O.P.E.) Award which is presented by the graduating class to the professor who they feel epitomizes the best qualities of the Hope College educator.

Young, who was an associate professor of English, was one of the first faculty members that the members of the the Class of 2008 encountered when they arrived on campus as freshmen in August of 2004. She co-delivered the address during that year's Opening Convocation, which marked the formal beginning of the academic year.

Her service to Hope College students has included serving on several campus committees and as a co-advisor to the Black Student Union student organization.

In 2009 she was appointed an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow to continue her scholarly work at the Huntington Memorial Library in San Marino, Calif. She recently had been awarded a New Directions Initiatives grant by the Great Lakes Colleges Association.

Prior to joining the Hope faculty she was a Preparing Future Faculty pre-doctoral teaching fellow during the 2002-03 school year, a program in which Hope participates with Howard University of Washington, D.C.

Her scholarly interests included early writers of the African Diaspora
(pre-1865); African-American literature; jazz and hip-hop as literature; and creative writing. Her dissertation, which she completed in 2004, focused on the marketing from 1767 to 1865 of the poetry of Phillis Wheatley, who was kidnapped from Africa as a child and wrote as a slave in Boston, Mass.

Prior to coming to Hope, Dr. Young was a multicultural summer teaching fellow at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. She had also taught at Howard, as well as at Touro College and the Center for Worker Education in New York City.

In addition to her Ph.D. from Howard University, Dr. Young held a bachelor's degree from Douglass College of Rutgers University and a master's from City College of CUNY of New York City.

She is survived by her husband, Ralph Tait, of Holland and family in
Indianapolis, Ind.

A funeral service will be held Friday, March 25, at 11 a.m. at the
Grace Episcopal Church in Holland.

The family has requested that in lieu of flowers or other memorial gifts, donations can be made to the following fund: Solomon Arthur Young Tait Fund, c/o Grace Episcopal Church, 555 Michigan Avenue, Holland, MI 49423.