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Greg Kannerstein 1941-2009

Greg Kannerstein, who devoted his career to Haverford College where he was a student, teacher, dean, coach and administrator, has died of complications from mesothelioma. He was 67.

A member of Haverford’s class of ’63, Kannerstein recently stepped down from his role as Dean of the College. He had begun work on his new appointment as a Special Advisor to Institutional Advancement and Lecturer in General Programs when emerging health issues forced him to take a medical leave last month. His illness was diagnosed only weeks ago.

“I can’t overstate the impact that Greg has had on Haverford,” said Stephen G. Emerson, president of the College and, like Kannerstein, an alumnus. “It’s fair to say that every Haverfordian who passed through here since 1968 has been touched by Greg’s spirit. Whether in his role as baseball coach, Athletic Director, Dean of Admissions, teacher or Dean, Greg was always there for Haverford, and for all of us in the greater Haverford family.”

Kannerstein began his post graduate life as a sportswriter and “rewriteman” at the Philadelphia Bulletin. Though Haverford did not offer journalism classes, Kannerstein credited its broad liberal arts curriculum with instilling an intellectual curiosity that is characteristic of the profession. Based upon the number of times he told the story, colleagues grew to believe that his greatest achievement as a newspaperman was one that nearly got him fired. “I ran a story about baseball great Jesus Alou’s performance in a particular game with the headline ‘Jesus Saves Giants’,” he liked to recount. “Apparently a lot of readers didn’t think it was as funny as I did.”

He then left the newsroom for the classroom, putting his English major training to work at several other colleges before returning to Haverford in 1968 as Assistant Dean of Students. His subsequent 41 years of service included major appointments in the Dean’s office as well as the departments of Athletics and Admission.

In addition to a master’s degree from Penn in English and folklore, Kannerstein earned a doctorate from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, where he won the Howe Prize for a study of Philadelphia school desegregation and wrote his thesis on the desegregation of black and white colleges in several cities. He also taught numerous classes at Haverford throughout his career.

“A stint as assistant to then-Haverford President Jack Coleman yielded several letters of reference from his boss,” notes current President Steve Emerson. “Coleman’s description of Greg in one of those letters aptly describes the man who would become a friend and mentor to literally thousands of us, myself included. Coleman wrote, ‘He is a man of complete integrity, common sense and decency. Haverford has been fortunate to have someone here who both loved the college and never lost sight of how it could be much better.’ That was true in 1972, and it has been true every day since. May his life of good works inspire us to live up to, and show others, the example he set.”

He is survived by his wife Elissa, stepdaughter Sara Sklaroff Carey, son-in-law Kevin Carey and his beloved granddaughter Edie, whom he taught how to play baseball.

As noted above, a celebration of Greg’s life will take place during Alumni Weekend next May 28-30 (Memorial Day Weekend).  Details to follow in the new year.

Friends are invited to share their memories at

Students cross in front of Founders Hall.

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