Veronica M. Kann
Veronica M. Kann, Ronnie or La Doña to those who knew and loved her, passed away on May 17, 2016, after a dauntless struggle with ALS. Her loss is incalculable.
Following a distinguished undergraduate career at Marquette University, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa, all the while maintaining a commanding presence at the “Lanch”, the local watering hole, she pursued advanced studies in Anthropology / Archeology at the University of Illinois Chicago and Urbana/Champaign. Aided by a Fulbright Scholarship, she completed field work in San Andreas Tuxtla, Mexico, just south of Vera Cruz. In Vera Cruz, she went beyond the “dig” and advocated for those marginalized by their economic status and social class. Her Spanish speaking skills, already well developed, achieved a level of colloquial fluency that would serve her well for the remainder of her life.
As she continued her advanced studies she accepted a position as a professor at St. Lawrence University in upstate New York. Sub-zero winters and a well-healed and easily distracted student body compelled her to look for other meaningful outlets. She worked with Spanish speaking inmates, exiled to prison hours from their families and communities, and became a compassionate advocate, instilling hope and meaning in damaged lives.
Ronnie returned to the Midwest where she loved the big skies, as an academic professional at the Latin America Studies Program of UIUC, eventually transitioning to the assistant / co / and sometimes acting director at La Casa. Undeterred by intellectually or spiritually challenged academics, she carved out a niche focusing on mentoring and inspiring generations of Latina/o students. Countless young adults, lacking experience and challenged by the demands of an uncompromising university, have credited Ronnie with fostering their scholastic development and launching successful careers.
One of her significant achievements at UIUC was the development of Latina/o Family Visit Day, an event (strategically scheduled to avoid a conflict with the Los Osos’ schedule) that brought the families of students to the University. The celebration invited families and parents into the University community and connected them with staff committed to the success of their children.
Ronnie’s last great project, undertaken with Alicia Rodriguez, was to create the Latina/o Resilience Network. The Network provides support for Latina/o students, increases mental health awareness and works as a space for students to share their experience and build resilience. Through the Network Ronnie continues to positively impact the lives and university experience of Latina/o students.
Ronnie tackled all challenges with intensity and integrity. After her ALS diagnosis she spent a month at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. Throughout her stay former students of all ages came to visit virtually every day to offer their support and acknowledge their debt to Ronnie for her faith and guidance. Even those of us who knew Ronnie well were overwhelmed to learn of the breath and depth of her impact.
Refusing to succumb to the assault of ALS, Ronnie remained relentlessly upbeat. Her occasionally caustic and always sharp sense of humor and commitment to living a full life continued undiminished.
Ronnie suffered from an inability to tolerate pompous fools but her commitment to her family and friends was genuine and generous. Her passing leaves a vast void in many lives, especially those of her brothers Kevin and Terry, sister Deirdre, cousins Joan and Mary, and special friend and long time companion Mike Bollman.
The family would like to recognize and thank the support of her many friends, especially Jeanie Scott, Alicia Rodriguez, and Becky Roach and her caregivers, notably Maria, Debbie, Landel, Diane, Jackson, Misty, and many more, for their support, love and concern during her final fight for life with dignity, meaning, music and laughs.
In lieu of flowers, please consider contributing to your preferred charitable organization, or one of Ronnie's favorite organizations including The Elephant Sanctuary (Tennessee) and Human Rights Watch, or the Les Turner ALS Foundation of Chicago.
Online condolences may be offered at www.HeathandVaughn.com.
I was greatly saddened to hear of the loss of Ronnie. She has been a genuine, stalwart colleague, rabble-rouser in the best sort of way, and empathetic individual with the best interest of others at heart. I long admired her courage to defend those who need defending and challenge those who need challenging. I was glad to have known her, and will miss her professionally and personally.
Our sincere condolences to all my cousins on the passing of cousin Ronnie. I have many fond memories of our family gatherings with all of my uncles/aunts and cousins.
Sorry, I’m at a loss for words...
Cousin Ken and Lyn Kohl