Jane Levitas Knox died peacefully and unexpectedly at home on July 21, 2020. She is survived by James R. Knox, her husband of 54 years, a son Craig P. Knox in Mt. Lebanon, PA, a daughter Clara Ruth Hurley in Granby, CT, three grandsons (Benjamin J. Hurley, Hale E. Knox and Cameron L. Knox), and a brother John H. Levitas, in Utica, NY. She was predeceased by a sister Betty Ann Rubin. Jane was born in Hackensack, NJ, on September 2, 1939, to Ethel R. Eisenmann and Irving M. Levitas and grew up in Westwood, NJ.
She received a BA degree in chemistry from Bryn Mawr College in 1961 and a MAT degree from Harvard University in 1962. After teaching high school chemistry in Pearl River, NY, she attended Boston University where she obtained an MA in chemistry in 1968. Accompanying her husband to Oxford University for two years, she joined the biophysics research group of Nobel Laureate Prof. Dorothy Hodgkin and assisted in the atomic-level structural determination of insulin. Returning to the US, she worked briefly with Prof. Frederick Richards in the Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale University.
In 1971 Jane began employment at the University of Connecticut as a Lecturer in Chemistry, and, while supervising undergraduate laboratories, helped to write the department’s laboratory manual “Experiments in Analytical Chemistry” with an emphasis on electronics and instrumentation. In 1990 she worked for a year in the University’s Marine Sciences Department at Avery Point. There she joined an analytical chemistry group for a month’s sailing on a NOAA research vessel to measure trace mercury levels in the atmosphere along the equatorial Pacific. She survived the feared initiation into the Ancient Order of Shellbacks for her crossing the equator and also received the Order of the Ditch certificate for transiting the Panama Canal.
At the University she organized the Chemistry Olympiad for high school students in Connecticut and Massachusetts and later started a new course entitled Chemistry for an Informed Electorate, a longtime interest of hers. She served on several University policy committees, including an important one on courses and curriculum. Jane was appointed an Assistant Dean in the Advisory Center of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences from 1992 to 1997, returning to the Chemistry Department from which she retired as Lecturer Emerita in 2003. She was a 50-year member of the American Chemical Society and was admitted to Sigma Xi, the scientific research society.
Besides teaching and science education, Jane’s joys were music and, always, people and family, even shepherding daughter Clara’s girl scout troop for several years or driving son Craig to music lessons in the winter up in Boston. One night a snow storm prevented their return, and they stayed with the teacher, a Boston Symphony musician, who provided Jane with a pair of his big pajamas. Local Mansfield residents might have heard Jane play the carillon keyboard high in the steeple of Storrs Congregational Church in the late 90’s. During many summers Jane played back-row clarinet in the Windham Concert Band and in the winter played with the Concert Band of Eastern Connecticut State University. In Mansfield she was a 10-year member of the town’s Advisory Committee on Solid Waste and was active in planning its recycling efforts.
Jane increased her activities after retirement to include more tent camping, biking, and gardening with Jim. Together they camped and partially canoed the entire Lewis and Clark Historic Trail from Pittsburgh, along the Ohio, Missouri, Clearwater, Snake and Columbia rivers to the Oregon coast during 7 summers, reading the original journals as they moved past historic sites and interacting with native American nations along the way, especially the Nez Perce. Five summer trips were made to northern Idaho to join volunteers doing Lolo trail maintenance in the Clearwater Forest in the Bitterroot Mountains. They were active members of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation, and, true to form, Jane got elected to officer and board positions in this national organization. Other summers were spent following the Oregon and Mormon Trails, as well as the Natchez Trace. She and Jim gave several illustrated talks on their history travels at the Center for Learning in Retirement in Mansfield.
Closer to home was her volunteer work for the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts at the University. She helped establish and judge the audition process for the many local school students applying to the Jorgensen Outreach for Youth (JOY) program, which provides free music lessons and training. For her multi-year efforts, she received in 2015 the Outstanding Volunteer Award from the School of Fine Arts. Lately, she and Jim had been volunteer ticket-takers and ushers for performances at the Jorgensen Center.
Jane’s run through life was quick, bright, and memorable to all who grieve her loss. A graveside Kaddish will be said at the Storrs Cemetery on N. Eagleville Road, Mansfield, CT, at 12:00 pm on July 31. About 1 hour after the interment there will be an outdoor gathering at the Knox home at 146 Birch Road in Storrs. Contributions in Jane’s honor may be made to the Jorgensen JOY program through the University of Connecticut Foundation, 2390 Alumni Drive U-3206, Storrs, CT 06269. Online memories of Jane may be written at www.potterfuneralhome.com.
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