The fall of an Intellectual Giant: Remembering Harry Brod

JACOB MADDEN, News Editor | [email protected]

“Even though he wasn’t one to tell me all the time, ‘I love you. I love you. I love you,’ he showed it all the time in a thousand different ways,” said Karen Mitchell, Harry Brod’s life partner and professor of performance studies.

Harry Brod passed away on June 16 at the age 66. Brod was a professor of sociology at UNI for 18 years. Brod taught Men and Masculinities, Money, Sex and Power: Theories of Race, Class and Power, and Women, Men and Society.

“Harry had an extensive collection of books,” Mitchell said. “In addition to that, all the archives from the beginning of the pro-feminist men’s movement and that goes all the way back to the early 1980s.”

Brod is considered one of the founders of the pro-feminist men’s movement, alongside Michael Kimmel and Michael Kaufman. According to Mitchell, she and Brod  took 25 boxes of books to St. Norbert College while Brod was the Distinguished Visiting Scholar at St. Norbert. During that time, St. Norbert also hosted a masculinities summit, featuring Kimmel, Kaufman and Brod.

“It was the first time the three of them, and they’ve been friends for decades, had been on stage together discussing how the pro-feminist men’s movement came about,” Mitchell said.

“When I think about Harry, I think about his quiet, authoritative demeanor,” said Danielle Dick McGeough, assistant professor of communications studies. “When I was younger, I found Harry quite intimidating because he had such an amazing reputation.

“I just think that he had such an amazing ability to take such complex ideas and to make those ideas accessible and easily understood, while at the same time not losing the nuances of the idea,” McGeough said.

McGeough explained that Brod’s skill of explanation and conciseness is an ability she is trying to foster in herself as an educator.

Mitchell recalled Brod’s gentle spirit and caring demeanor.

“When my oldest niece Maddie came to stay with me, she came by herself for three days and three nights. On the evening of the third night she had gotten sunburned at the pool and she was very tired and she wanted to go home.

“It was six hours away so there was no going home, so she started crying. I said ‘Maddie, sweetie, what would make it better?’ and she said ‘Harry Brod and a pizza,’” Mitchell said.

Mitchell explained that Brod arrived in 20 minutes with a pizza, and he sat on the floor with Maddie eating pizza and playing games, and Maddie fell asleep in Brod’s lap.

“We drained the cup dry,” Mitchell said. “We traveled even when we couldn’t afford to travel, and if we wanted to go somewhere, we went.

“His brilliant mind didn’t fall away in parts, so it was a good death. He always said he wanted to go with his boots on, and he did,” Mitchell said.

According to Mitchell, Brod was an organ donor, and four weeks after his death Mitchell received a letter saying that Brod’s corneas had given a recipient their sight.

Brod was also a child of Holocaust survivors. According to his obituary, his Jewish heritage affected his life greatly.

Mitchell and Brod were life partners for 17 and 1/2 years. Three days before his death, Mitchell proposed to Brod at dinner, where they were celebrating his cataract surgery.

Mitchell proposed to Brod with a ring featuring the Star of David on it, which she wears as a necklace in rememberance of Brod.

“That’s the person that my nieces and my nephew and his beloved daughter and son knew,” Mitchell said. “He could make the sunburns stop hurting and the homesickness go away, by showing up with a pizza and a wonderful, beautiful imagination.”