Dr. Jane Worth Harbaugh, 90, of Chattanooga, Tennessee, passed away on September 27, 2020.
She was her elder sister’s best friend, beloved aunt and great aunt to her extended family, academic and mentor to countless students and others at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, and a philanthropist supporting education and the arts.
Jane was born April 24, 1930, in Baltimore, Md., the second child of Charlotte Anne Kirby Harbaugh and Vernon Leslie Harbaugh. The family, including her elder sister Charlotte Ann Harbaugh, moved to Floral Park, N.Y., when the girls were teens. After completing high school Jane went on to earn her associate bachelor’s degree at Tufts University in Medford, Ma.
A trailblazing woman in academia in the post-war period, Jane completed graduate programs at Tufts and ultimately earned her associate master’s degree and doctorate of philosophy specializing in diplomatic history, Europe, and the Middle East, from Tufts’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. In 1956 she was awarded a grant by the Rockefeller Foundation to complete one year of post-doctorate studies at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies. She fell in love with Europe while there, which led to many trips to the Continent throughout her life with her sister and others.
Upon her return to the United States, Jane accepted a faculty role at the University of Chattanooga (UC). She then completed a post-doctorate program at Harvard University in East Asian Studies from 1961–1962, and by 1965 was named head of the history department at UC. Jane continued to excel as an institutional administrator, academic, and mentor, and she earned the distinction of being the first woman appointed as a dean at UC. She later was named vice chancellor for academic affairs before ultimately becoming associate provost for undergraduate and special programs, a role she held until retiring in 2001. She continued to serve as a community liaison for the university after her formal retirement.
When Jane was not on campus, she played an important role in the lives of another set of young people: her five nieces and nephews. Jane—who was sometimes called “Biggie” by John, Jane, Kirby, Richard, and Leslie—stepped in to help her sister when she was widowed in 1966. Jane and her mother, affectionately known by the family as “Dolly,” spent days entertaining the children with trips up Lookout Mountain to see Rock City. The outing would frequently be followed by extravagant dinners and hours spent in conversation and storytelling. While Jane never married or had children of her own, she often said she had many children all over the country, including the young people she mentored and her extended family.
Jane will be remembered for her giving spirit and willingness to lead. She served as a board member and chair of several nonprofit organizations and educational initiatives in Chattanooga and beyond, including as 1977–1980 chair of the Tennessee Commission for the Selection of Rhodes Scholars; as a committee member on guidance and counseling in schools for The Education Trust in Washington, DC; on the board of the Public Education Foundation, which supports educators in the greater Hamilton County area; and established a scholarship fund in her own name.
Jane is survived by her beloved sister Charlotte Ann Caldwell; her nephew John Caldwell and his wife Peggy; niece Jane Burlingham and her husband Mark; nephew Kirby Caldwell and his wife Charlotte Carter Caldwell; nephew Richard and his wife Lisa Kitterman Caldwell; and niece Leslie Caldwell Grills. She is also survived by her sister’s grandchildren, including Tara Ferguson; Amy Burlingham Wages and Brian Burlingham; Casey Caldwell Long and Nathan Caldwell; Christopher Caldwell, Courtney Caldwell Gooddell, and Taylor Caldwell; and Lauren Nicole Grills and Katie Swafford.
Part of Jane’s extended, chosen family were her neighbors Mary and Larry Wagenblast. They diligently managed the care of Jane over the past decade as she battled Parkinson’s disease, and her family is eternally grateful to them for their caring friendship.
Her death was preceded by her father Vernon Leslie Harbaugh and mother Charlotte Anne Kirby Harbaugh, and her dear friend and fellow Chattanooga philanthropist Ruth Sulzberger Holmberg.
Private funeral services will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 30, at 2 p.m. EDT/1 p.m. CDT. While the in-person service will be private, it will be live-broadcasted from the funeral home’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/chattanoogaeastchapel. You are welcome to view the service virtually. A memorial reception will be hosted at a later date.
To honor Jane’s giving spirit, her family requests a donation dedicated in her honor to one of these organizations:
- Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga
- Public Education Foundation (PEF) Chattanooga
- The University of Chattanooga Foundation, Inc.
If you would like to send flowers for her graveside services, please send them to Chattanooga Funeral Home, Crematory, & Florist–East Chapel.
We respectfully request that all current mandates set forth by the CDC and the Hamilton County Health Department be adhered to. This includes “social distancing” and wearing masks at all times while on the premises.
Arrangements are under the care of Chattanooga Funeral Home Crematory and Florist East Chapel, 404 South Moore Road, East Ridge, Tn. 37412.
Please share your thoughts and memories at www.ChattanoogaEastChapel.com.