Although the booming voice that belonged to the beloved Dr. Joseph A. Kestner can no longer be heard reverberating through Chapman Hall, it will surely echo in the memories of all who knew him. Kestner, a New York-area native, passed away at his home in Tulsa on the night of Sunday, August 23, at the age of 71.
The McFarlin Professor of English and founder of the Department of Film Studies was a key fixture at TU for 37 years. Kestner’s enthusiastic engagement with students, colleagues and members of the broader Tulsa community secured him immense popularity and myriad awards over the years. His lecture halls were unfailingly full, whether for classes or film screenings, seminars or talks.
Kestner was an integral component in the establishment and sustained flourishing of the Film Studies major in 1999, followed by the founding of the Department of Film Studies in 2005. Numerous students have cited his faith in film, wit and passion both in and out of the classroom as being instrumental in inspiring their pursuit of film. Many students have been highly successful due to the dedication, talent and knowledge Kestner poured into the program.
His renown was not limited to the university. As an internationally recognized scholar admired for exploring the ties between literature, film, painting and opera, Kestner lectured extensively both domestically and abroad. His presentations and publications were both diverse and prolific, and he was honored in life with invitations to lecture at multiple prestigious institutions.
While not energetically expounding on Sherlock Holmes, “Male Gaze” theory, or the Horror film genre, Kestner was seemingly in constant preparations for one adventure or another. He planned to undertake a new project on filmmaker Ingmar Bergman in Sweden this fall; subsequently, he was to speak at an international Sherlock Holmes society meeting in New York.
A memorial service for Dr. Kestner held on campus last Tuesday was well-attended, and he will be dearly missed by many who knew him through any of the multitude of organizations of which he was a part. Anna Norberg, his wife and a longtime TU School of Music faculty member, survives him. Donations may be made in Kestner’s honor to support scholarships for future deserving TU Film Studies students; gifts may be mailed to the university with “Professor Kestner” in the check’s subject line.