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Sharon McCoy <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 9 May 2011 13:27:18 -0700
text/plain (74 lines)
Thunder struck.  My deepest sympathies to Michael's wife Ann, and to all who 
were his close friends.

Words fail, as they always do, but whenever I'm devastated, I turn to Twain's 
words on the death of Jean.  They got me through my brother's death, and it 
doesn't surprise me that Michael shared them--and the emotion they rouse--in the 
classroom with his students.  He was never afraid of what matters, and he 
embraced the things that truly matter.  

The first time I met Michael personally was at the joint Mark Twain Circle / 
American Humor Studies Association conference in New Orleans.  At one panel, I 
listened in horror as a speaker presented what he said was a radical and 
unprecedented theory, talking at warp speed, mostly cobbling together ideas that 
had been argued better elsewhere, willfully misunderstanding and lambasting 
Twain scholars,  some of whom (I don't think he realized) were in the room, 
listening.  When the question and answer period came, I braced myself, but it 
was Michael Kiskis who spoke up, with the quiet, soft voice I'm sure he used in 
the classroom, leaving students straining for every word.  

Michael gently commented on the one or two original parts of the presentation, 
offering strong suggestions for pushing those ideas in a fruitful direction, 
then listing off some of the pertinent work that might be helpful, and finally 
suggesting quietly and specifically what the young man might find interesting 
and useful in the scholarship --some of which the speaker had misread and 
dismissed--but Michael graciously did not point that out.  

The tone was set, a collective sigh was released, and the conference  moved on, 
focusing on what mattered.  When I talked with Michael about it later, 
expressing my appreciation for his tact and supportive grace, he said -- well, 
any  number of people in the room could have shredded him, but what would have 
been the point?  Fish in a barrel.  The challenge was in turning what was 
interesting into something much more interesting.

A challenge we can all take up.

I'll be in Elmira for the next 6 days.  If there is anything I can do, I will.  


From: Mark Woodhouse <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Sun, May 8, 2011 8:48:25 PM
Subject: Michael Kiskis

With great sorrow we announce that Michael J. Kiskis passed away today,
Mother's Day, in Binghamton, New York after suffering heart failure. He died
surrounded by his caring and devoted wife Ann, friends and family members.
He was beloved and he was one of those rare individuals who knew how much he
was loved and he loved in return. Those of us who were among his friends
recognized that he was and will always be our greatest gift. As Twain said
we are thunder struck by his loss.

As plans are made for a memorial celebration of his life, information will
be shared.

Ann Ryan, Laura Skandera Trombley and Mark Woodhouse

Mark Woodhouse
Head of Technical Services
College and Mark Twain Archivist
Elmira College
One Park Place
Elmira NY 14901
607 735 1869