Dr. David Kurnit

Dr. David Kurnit, former professor of pediatrics, died Jan. 30 at the age of 60.

He was born Dec. 24, 1947, in Brooklyn, N.Y., the son of Victor and Helen (Oxhandler) Kurnit. He completed his Bachelor of Science degree, Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from Brooklyn College and his M.D. and doctoral degrees from Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Upon completing residency and fellowship programs, Kurnit became an associate professor at Harvard Medical School. He was then recruited by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and served as a Howard Hughes investigator at the U-M Medical Center, where he was given a full professorship with dual appointments in pediatrics and human genetics.

During his career, Kurnit published more than 100 articles in peer-reviewed medical journals, pioneered ground-breaking research in the field of genetics and invented medical technology, which he and his wife sought to commercialize through a company they founded.

Friends and colleagues say Kurnit will be remembered for his brilliant mind, his sharp wit and his openheartedness. Throughout his career, he devoted himself to supporting the academic achievement of the students and researchers who worked in his lab.

Kurnit is survived by his wife, Kristine; three daughters, Katherine Kurnit, Jennifer Kurnit and Heather Spicer; three grandchildren, Sydney, Jake and Andrew; and a sister, Mona Kurnit. A life celebration service is planned for 1:30 p.m. May 17 at the Michigan League in the Koessler Room. Memorial donations may be sent to the American Cancer Society.

David Noel Freedman

Biblical scholar David Noel Freedman, professor emeritus of Near Eastern Studies, LSA, died April 8 at the age of 85.

Freedman’s career largely was spent at U-M (1971-1992) and at the University of California, San Diego (1986-2008). At U-M he was director of the Studies in Religion program and held the first Arthur F. Thurnau professorship until his retirement. He taught biblical studies through the Department of Near Eastern Studies. He also initiated the well-known Visiting Professor of Religious Thought lecture series, which brought such luminaries as Hans Kung from Tubingen, Germany, Harvey Cox from Harvard and Gustavo Gutierrez from Lima, Peru, to campus for a semester as theologians in residence. These lectures were held at Rackham Auditorium. The series later was channeled into the theme semesters, which continue.

Freedman was general editor of the Anchor Bible Commentary series (N.Y.: Doubleday, now Yale University Press). The series, begun in 1956, includes new translations of each book of the Bible with explanatory notes and comments. He also edited the Anchor Bible Reference Library, background books on biblical, archaeological and historical matters, in addition to the six-volume Anchor Bible Dictionary, completed in 1992. He was general editor of the one volume Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2000), as well as their commentary series and their reference series, The Bible in Its World.

In an academic career that spanned 60 years, Freedman equally was a superb teacher, a producer of original research, a foremost editor of critical works and an entrepreneur. He supervised the archaeological expedition at Ashdod, Israel; was director of the American Schools of Oriental Research, the Albright Institute, in Jerusalem; was president of the Society of Biblical Literature; and edited the leading journals of the field (Journal of Biblical Literature, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, Biblical Archaeologist). He was principal author and editor of more than 300 scholarly books. He was a tireless spokesman for the beauty, interest and relevancy of the Bible and biblical studies, friends and colleagues say.

Born in New York City, he was the second child of Beatrice and David Freedman, the latter a successful playwright and comedy writer for entertainers including Eddie Cantor, Fanny Brice and Buster Keaton. He was a child prodigy who at age 5 could recite the kings and queens of England and their relevant dates and could play simultaneous chess games with champions at an early age (until his mother made him give that up for “more constructive” endeavors). He graduated at age 13 in 1935 from the prestigious Townsend Harris High School, from UCLA at age 17 in 1939, from Princeton Seminary in 1944, and from the Johns Hopkins University with a doctorate under William Foxwell Albright in 1948. He also served as pastor of two Presbyterian churches in rural Washington State, 1944-45, before returning to graduate studies.

He married Cornelia Anne Pryor 1944. Freedman is survived by four children, Meredith Anne and David, of Petaluma, Calif., Jonathan of Montara, Calif., and Nadezhda of Glasgow, Scotland; two brothers, Benedict and Toby; sister, Laurie Hayden; and nine grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Freedman, who never retired, was writing, publishing and teaching his seminar via Web-cam while recovering from surgery at his son, David’s, home when he died.

Donations may be sent for a scholarship in his name to the Society of Biblical Literature.
— Submitted by Astrid Billes Beck, former program associate for Studies in Religion and colleague in the Anchor and Eerdmans series publications


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