I was deeply saddened to learn of Helen's passing. As my advisor she was a large part of my MSW learning experience, but only in the last five years of working in the school have I truly been able to appreciate the breadth of her work, her impact, her resilience and the ways that she truly lived vital involvement by example. Her impact was great, and her loss is too.

Keely Vandre

Helen really inspired me as an MSW and PhD student. I appreciated her passion for teaching and really holding students accountable to understanding concepts and applying them accurately. It’s because of her that I don’t teach students about ecological theory without including exo-systems. I enjoyed working with her in City Songs as it was one of her commitments to supporting social justice.

Valandra, PhD, University of Arkansas, USA

Helen did something extraordinary that I hope to emulate in my life. Whenever I brought around a new friend, she greeted THEM as family, warmly welcoming them, saying "I hope we see more of you," always remembering their names, and asking about them. It is an amazing way to express kindness and acceptance. It profoundly made ME feel welcomed and loved. Helen, I want to be more like you.

Amy R. Krentzman, Associate Professor, School of Social Work

Helen was one of the first people to really welcome me in the School of Social Work. I had the office across the hall from hers, and we had many conversations over the years—a few mundane, about technology that didn't work, and many more interesting—about food, vital involvement, and youth work. It was always clear to me that Helen cared, passionately, about what happened around her. She always had time for everyone, to make them feel welcome. I will miss her energy and the space she created for others. I spoke to her only a few weeks ago and despite how she must have been feeling, she was as passionate as ever in the work she was doing.

Alex Fink

I first came to the University of Minnesota in 1996 as an education specialist for the newly minted Child Abuse Prevention Studies Program. New to the role of teaching and all things academia, I was excited to learn about City Songs, what seemed like an inspired university-community practice. Anyone who has known Helen understands she has a superlative mind!
Yet, what I remember about City Songs was Helen's "light touch." It was a program that seemed truly driven by the program's music directors and kids themselves. While I remember Helen's support and presence (never attended a rehearsal or performance when she wasn't there), what immediately comes to mind when I think of that time are the voices raised together, singing about life and convictions for the future - the embodiment of a community. I feel incredibly lucky to have been a part of that experience and for Helen's example of thoughtful, supportive, and engaged scholarship-practice.

Jessica Toft

Helen was the embodiment of "vital involvement" to me. She was radiant in her person, and that was only the beginning. Her amazing engagement with life was contagious, and a gift to me and others. I will always remember her fierce commitment to her students, and to making the world a better, more just place. If I were to think of one person who truly exemplified how a single life could make a difference in this enormous world, it would be Helen. Kind, generous to a fault and fearlessly authentic, she was a role model and a force for good. I am grateful for the song and the light that she brought selflessly to every occasion. Helen's music will live on through all of us fortunate enough to have known her.

John Bricout

Helen was a great colleague and excellent researcher. I respected her humble life with passion in sharing and giving. She came to my class as a guest speaker every spring to share her vital involvement theory. Although not well, she always provided me positive energy and support. She is an example of vital living, and I will dearly miss her.

Hee Yun Lee

One of my favorites as well and her work with older adults still sticks with me even 30 years post MSW. I often referenced her work as a professor myself in an MSW program through LUSSW.

Carol Satre

It breaks my heart to hear that Helen passed away. It was my honor to study with Helen and to get to know personal stories of elder role models and their vital involvements. I am deeply touched and so grateful for her accommodation, caring and mentoring me over the years of my PhD program. I appreciate and am inspired by Helen's efforts in promoting arts and social work. She will always be in my heart.

Chitta Santavasy

Helen Kivnick, Chitta and Ong
Helen with Chitta, left, an her sister Ong. As a PhD student, Chitta worked with Helen as a research assistant, and the photo was taken when Chitta's sister visited her in Minnesota during the winter of 2017.

It's incredibly sad. I'm holding on to the words of wisdom that she shared with me as she informally advised me with my dissertation. I can't imagine the School of Social Work without her.

Tina N. Barr, Assistant Professor, Department of Social Work, The University of North Carolina at Pembroke

So sad to hear this. Helen was an exceptional professor and a kind human being. Thank you for everything, Helen!

Shweta Singh

She will be missed. Honored to have shared space and time with such a brilliant and amazing soul ♥️.

Cary Waubanascum

So sad to hear this...She was a good Prof, I am that much more a SW for having been in her class AND an excellent writer!

RT Martin

She was my advisor when I graduated with my MSW 18 years ago. Such a caring person who made every class memorable and saw the strengths in every student. Very sad to hear this news and know she will be dearly missed.

James Rechs

Always awed that her career began with the Eriksons and she landed at U of M- her Vital Involvement Project and City Songs were amazing programs—rest in peace Helen.

Kathryn Ringham

Sad to hear about Helen. She was generous and helped new students adapt to their new environment. I enjoyed learning from Helen.

Ndilimeke Shapaka Nashandi

What a loss to SSW. Helen was such an amazing professor. I am so grateful I had her for human behavior and the environment. Rest peacefully.

Jess Nicole

This news hit me hard. I really loved Helen and learned so much from her. I knew she was sick, but it is a deep loss for the school and the greater Twin Cities community.

Jennifer Simmelink McCleary, PhD '13

Take a listen to the Twin Cities-based Giving Voice Chorus, a groundbreaking set of choirs for people with Alzheimer’s disease, care partners, and community volunteers, for which Helen had served as a volunteer and researcher since 2013.

During the most difficult time of my elderly parents' care, and the eventual death of my mother, Helen somehow found out what was happening and stopped by my office. She was able to give me such wonderful support and perspective at a time when I was really struggling, and I will forever be grateful for that.

Julie Cutting

Helen was the epitome of warmth and kindness. I will never forget how she welcomed my partner and me to Minnesota within weeks of our arrival. It made a world of difference for us. I am honored to have known her even for a short time and will miss her so much.

Cindy Vang

There are so many parenting mentors that I've leaned on in my time at SSW, and Helen was definitely one of them. What a gracious heart and so much wisdom.

Kate Walthour

Helen was the first professor I met out in the community through CitySongs and not in a lecture hall. She helped me imagine how the two spaces could be beautifully connected in tangible ways. She gave me inspiration to create the weird spaces that can germinate at the U of MN—it started me thinking differently about academia. Here I now am.

Deborah Moore

I met Dr. Kivnick as a not-yet social work student in September 2010. I was in an MEd program, and I took her course, Human Behavior in the Social Environment as an elective. I scheduled a meeting with her to ask her opinion of whether social work would be a good fit for me. I remember being in her office and worrying that the towers of books and papers so precariously perched on desks, chairs, and the floor, would topple all over us! She not only encouraged me to come to social work, but she helped me find my place in this profession. Even after I finished my MSW and began my PhD program, when I'd see her in Peters Hall, I could never call her Helen, even when she asked me to! My last memory of Dr. Kivnick was in August 2019, where I had the fortune of sitting in a discussion group with her at the NASW-MN conference. As I write this, I'm preparing for my own HBSE course that meets in the morning - a class I am honored to teach in her memory.
Thank you for allowing me to share these memories and thoughts about Dr. Helen Kivnick.

Renada Goldberg, Assistant Professor, School of Social Work, Simmons University