Department Chair and Distinguished Professor Jonathan Hess Dies

April 10, 2018

Jonathan Hess, professor and chair of the Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures, passed away suddenly Monday afternoon, April 9.

Hess had been department chair since 2016 and the Moses M. and Hannah L. Malkin Distinguished Professor of Jewish History and Culture since 2012. He had served as director for the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies for 10 years, building it into one of the premier Jewish Studies programs in the country.

Hess was a renowned scholar on German cultural, intellectual and literary history from the 18th century on, with particular interests in both German-Jewish studies and the legacy of the Enlightenment. He was the author of four books and numerous peer-reviewed articles on Jewish-German culture, politics and anti-Semitism.

“I will remember Jonathan for his love of family and his commitment to our students and to advancing Jewish studies at Carolina,” said Kevin Guskiewicz, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “Please keep Jonathan’s wife, [UNC School of Law professor] Beth Posner, and their three daughters in your thoughts during this difficult time.”

Hess’ other service to the University included being a member of the Advisory Committee on Undergraduate Admissions and representing the College on the Appointments, Promotions and Tenure Committee. He served on Faculty Council from 2009 to 2013.

He had been a member of the Carolina faculty since 1993, joining it immediately after earning his doctorate in comparative literature and literary theory from the University of Pennsylvania.

A funeral for Hess will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 12, at Judea Reform Congregation, 1933 W. Cornwallis Road, Durham, with a burial to follow at the Judea Reform Cemetery, 2560 Jones Ferry Road, Chapel Hill.