Rosalie Kane made an indelible mark in the world of social work and the study of aging.
Last fall, the National Association of Social Workers Foundation named the longtime University of Minnesota professor a “Social Work Pioneer.”
The foundation recognizes individuals whose “unique dedication, commitment and determination have improved social and human conditions.”
Kane’s 45-year career — the last 35 years of it spent at the University of Minnesota — as a professor of social work and public health was marked by a dedication that continued over the past year even after she received a diagnosis of brain cancer.
Kane died May 5 in her Minneapolis home. She was 79.
The University’s School of Social Work said in a statement, “The School of Social Work is mourning the loss of Professor Rosalie Kane. [She] was a world-renowned researcher in long-term care, as well as in many other concerns facing older adults. Her work had influence throughout the world in developing, designing and evaluating changes in policies and services that promote choices and full lives for aging adults.
“A member of the Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare, she set the standard in quality for social work research on aging, and in the process influenced the work and careers of many, including students and faculty at the University of Minnesota.”
Kane and her husband, Robert, moved to Minneapolis in 1985 when he became dean of the U’s School of Public Health and Rosalie became a professor. Robert Kane, a graduate of Harvard Medical School who died in 2017, was a professor of public health at the University of Minnesota for more than 30 years.
The couple combined to spend more than 70 years studying aging. Both wrote extensively about long-term care. They were considered by many to be the world’s leading experts in aging.
University of Minnesota professor of social work Helen Kivnick, a colleague of Kane’s, said, “Since I was introduced to Rosalie in the summer of 1990, she has been part of so many facets and sub-facets of my life that I’m sure I’ll be sharply reminded of her departure for as long as I live.
“She was brilliant. She was generative. She was complicated. She was funny. She was persistent. She was demanding. She was quirky. She was uncompromising. She was infinitely competent and seemingly tireless. She never gave up on people or ideas she believed in.”
The Minnesota Gerontological Society (MGS) has a Robert and Rosalie Kane Scholarship Fund. The scholarship is for undergraduate and graduate students who are studying in a field related to gerontology or geriatric health in Minnesota.
“Rosalie volunteered much of her time to creating the content for the annual MGS conferences, both as a presenter and committee member. She presented many workshops on ethics in long-term care. She will be missed as a strong voice for quality care and, most importantly, as a friend,” said MGS Executive Director Tom Hyder.
Rosalie Kane was born to Max and Pearl Smolkin on June 29, 1940, in Arnprior, Ontario.
After high school, she attended the University of Toronto, where she met her future husband. She graduated with a degree in history and English literature, then went on to earn a master’s degree from Simmons College and a doctorate in social work from the University of Utah.
She is survived by daughters Miranda Kane, Ingrid Kane Johnson and Kate Kane; a brother, David Smolkin, and eight grandchildren. Services have been held.