University of Wisconsin professor Nietzchka Keene, a filmmaker and member of the Communication Arts Department, passed away Wednesday from complications with cancer.
Keene, 52, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last spring, battled the disease until her condition worsened last week, leading to her death, according to the Communication Arts Department Chairperson Vance Kepley, Jr., in an e-mail sent to students.
Keene did not miss class until two weeks before her death and tried her best to continue teaching, according to communication arts professor J. J. Murphy.
Murphy said Keene was a “really close friend” and a “dedicated teacher who cared for her students.”
“She had tremendous influence on students,” Murphy said.
Keene taught editing and post-production for video and film, advanced video production and direction, television dramatic production and direction and writing for television and film.
Patrick Moyroud, a long-time friend of Keene’s and producer for her first feature film, “The Juniper Tree,” reminisced about his friend.
“All through her career, she kept a sense of humor, often quirky, sometimes devilish and slightly skewed, but I think it kept her going through the roughest times,” Moyroud said in an e-mail. “To people who met Nietzchka [Keene] the first time, she could seem eccentric, stubborn and hard to know, except on her own terms.”
Outside the classroom, filmmaking was a large part of Keene’s life. She shot her last film, “Barefoot to Jerusalem,” in Madison in 2001.
“She had her own ideas and goals for what she wanted to accomplish and would follow them with intensity and strength. Sometimes that meant stepping on toes,” Moyroud said. “Not many people have produced, written and directed three feature films on budgets that would not even pay for a three-bedroom house today.”
“Nietzchka’s friendship was warm, lasting and genuine,” he said, adding she was a good friend. “She cared for people, tried to help, and offered what she had generously.”