Lucy M. Freibert (1922-2016)
During a nearly 30-year career at UofL, Lucy M. Freibert served as an advocate, mentor, and educator to countless students, colleagues, and friends.
A native Kentuckian, Dr. Freibert joined the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth in 1945, and remained a professed SCN for 39 years until her death in 2016. She began her teaching career in several Louisville Catholic schools. Taking summer courses, she earned a B.A. in English in 1957 from Spalding College and an M.A. from St. Louis University in 1962. After receiving her Ph.D. in 1970 from University of Wisconsin, she taught briefly at Spalding before joining the UofL English faculty in 1971.
A true pioneer of women’s issues and gender equity, she taught the first women’s studies course at UofL, “Women in Literature,” in 1973. She was an early advocate for a university-wide sexual harassment policy, and she worked tirelessly for the establishment of the UofL Women’s Center and the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies. She also taught one of the first African-American literature courses and was an advocate for racial equality throughout her career.
Described by former students as a “steady and constant inspiration,” Dr. Freibert was also an accomplished scholar. She co-authored Hidden Hands: An Anthology of American Women Writers, 1790-1870, the first anthology devoted to American women writers of the period. A colleague writes that Dr. Freibert “demonstrated excellence and originality in scholarship and the importance of acting on one’s convictions to achieve change.”
Upon her retirement from teaching in 1993, she was named Professor Emerita and later served in the university’s ombudservice. She also continued to enrich the community as an active volunteer with the Pleiades Theatre Company and women’s organizations. She was a driving force in the founding of Project Women, Inc., now Family Scholar House, which helps single parents earn college degrees.
Dr. Freibert earned numerous university honors and awards during her lifetime including the university’s Distinguished Teaching Award (1987) and the Mary K. Bonsteel Tachua Gender Equity Award (2004). In 1991, she was presented with the Trustees Award in recognition of her contributions to and impact on student life. In 2001, the UofL Office of Community Engagement awarded her the Lifetime Community Service Award, in recognition of her more than 50 years of community service.
With over 1000 volumes donated from Dr. Freibert’s personal collection, the UofL library’s “Lucy M. Freibert Collection” contains signed first editions and personal correspondence with contemporary women writers. The collection, dedicated in 2008, ensures that generations will continue to benefit from Dr. Freibert’s legacy of advocacy, scholarship, and service.