• By Deb Balzer

Frances Kinne, Ph.D., a legend in Jacksonville, Mayo Clinic and beyond, passes away at 102

May 10, 2020

Frances B. Kinne, Ph.D., chancellor emerita of Jacksonville University and a longtime Mayo Clinic patient, advocate, benefactor, and honorary member of the Mayo Clinic staff passed away on Sunday, May 10. She was 102 years old.

"Dr. Kinne was a trailblazer in higher education at Jacksonville University and an incredible supporter and advocate for Mayo Clinic," says Kent Thielen, M.D., CEO of Mayo Clinic in Florida. "But for many of us here she was a wonderfully kind – and wise – friend who truly inspired us. With her persistence and always with a smile she had a unique ability to bring people together. There are some people is this world that truly enrich the lives of those lucky enough to have known them. Fran was one of those people. We are grateful for Fran’s friendship, and we join the community in mourning her passing."

Frances Bartlett Kinne, Ph.D., was born in Story City, Iowa, in 1917. In the next three decades, she experienced the Great Depression and World War II. But she also established the foundation for her success. 

Dr. Kinne entered college at age 16 and went on to receive her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education from Drake University. During the war, she served as an Army hostess and then lived in China and Japan with her first husband, Col. Harry L. Kline. A transfer to an army base in Germany gave her the chance to pursue her lifelong goal of earning a doctorate. In 1957, she became the first American to receive a doctorate from the University of Frankfurt.

Dr. Kinne joined the faculty of Jacksonville University in 1958 and later became the dean and founder of its college of fine arts. In 1979, she was named president. In earning that post, she became the first woman to lead a university in Florida. 

Shortly after that, Dr. Kinne became involved with the communitywide effort to bring Mayo Clinic to Jacksonville. J.E. Davis, a longtime Mayo Clinic patient and a founder of Winn-Dixie supermarkets, led the effort and enlisted Dr. Kinne’s support. It was an easy decision for her because she was already familiar with Mayo Clinic. She received her Mayo Clinic number in 1958, but her roots went back even further. 

"I grew up with Mayo," Dr. Kinne told In the Loop in a 2015 story. "Any time we had a problem we felt we couldn’t handle, we were up to Mayo."

After the Jacksonville campus opened in 1986, Dr. Kinne’s relationship with Mayo Clinic grew even more. She hosted many gatherings for physicians from Rochester and Jacksonville. She also served as an adviser for CEOs at the Florida campus, and she became a familiar face to many staff. Her birthday became an annual event on campus, held in her namesake auditorium, typically drawing about 150 people each year.

Now, with Dr. Kinne’s passing, Dr. Thielen is hopeful that people will find comfort in the continuing activities that define her legacy at Mayo Clinic.

"Kinne auditorium is one of the busiest venues on our campus, and it’s a resource for our staff and community," he says. "In that way, it provides all of us with a vibrant reminder, every day, of Dr. Kinne’s spirit and contributions to Mayo Clinic and Jacksonville. I’m also looking forward to the work of present and future recipients of the Kinne professorship and the progress they will achieve with her philanthropy."

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