Professor Emerita of English Florence ‘Feenie’ Ziner Dies

Florence ‘Feenie’ Ziner, professor emerita of English, died on Dec. 13, 2012, at the age of 90.

Ziner taught at UConn for 20 years . She retired in 1994.

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Florence Katz, or Feenie as she came to be known, attended Brooklyn College. She earned a master’s degree in social work at the Columbia University School of Social Work in 1944.

She worked as a psychiatric social worker in Chicago, but found that she too often empathized with her clients, and decided to try her hand at writing children’s books. Her first published book, The True Book of Time, aimed to teach children how to tell time. More than half a million copies of the book were eventually printed in several different editions.

Her first book was followed by four other books for young children – Wonderful Wheels, Little Sailor’s Big Pet, Hiding, and Counting Carnival – a book that stayed in print for 27 years. She also wrote a book about the Pilgrims for young adults, Pilgrims and the Plymouth Colony, which told the story of the settlement from the English point of view; and Dark Pilgrim: The Story of Squanto, a biography of the Wampanoag who assisted, and then was betrayed by, the English settlers.

Her first book for adults, A Full House, was published in 1966, followed by Bluenose, Queen of the Grand Banks (1970), and the autobiographical Within This Wilderness (1978).

While living in Montreal in the late 1960s, Feenie became the children’s book reviewer for the Montreal Star and taught a college course on the contemporary novel. When the family moved back to New York in 1970, she became a children’s book reviewer for The New York Times, and taught the contemporary novel at both the New School for Social Research and SUNY Purchase.

In the mid-1970s, Feenie accepted a teaching position with the English Department at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, a “temporary” part-time appointment that evolved into a 20-year career as a scholar and educator, teaching courses in creative writing. She retired from the University as professor emerita in 1994.

Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor and Aetna Chair of Writing Lynn Bloom describes Ziner as “a capacious and energetic woman and a heluva good writer,” adding, “Feenie was a splendid person, a fine teacher, and a wonderful human being.”

Ziner was predeceased by her husband, Zeke. She is survived by children Marc, Joe, Amie, Ted, and Eric.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Connecticut Hospice, UNICEF, or UConn.

Memorial contributions designated for UConn may be sent to the UConn Foundation, 2390 Alumni Drive, Storrs, CT 06269-3206, indicating in the memo line of the check that the gift is in memory of Feenie Ziner. These contributions will support the English Department’s Rightors Fund for Children’s Literature, which provides program support for creative writing students, and will be used to invite writers to for various creative writing courses.