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COE Says Farewell to Beloved Educator Frances Jenkins Pickens

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January 10, 2018
Frances J. Pickens, photo courtesy of Nate's Photography

Frances Jenkins Pickens passed away on November 4, 2017 at the age of 90. An accomplished artist, teacher, and lifelong supporter of education and fundraising, Frances established the Frances M.J. & Alexander Pickens Scholarship Fund in Secondary Education with her late husband, Dr. Alexander L. Pickens, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa College of Education (COE) Professor Emeritus.

Born in Dodd City, Texas, Frances earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of North Texas and a Master of Education degree from the COE. She taught art in public schools throughout the U.S. mainland, including Texas, Georgia, Michigan, and New York before coming to Hawai‛i where she taught art at Punahou School, then Kamehameha Schools (1965–1985).

Featured in the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM), Frances is cited as an important American metalwork artist, known particularly for her jewelry. She was named Distinguished Artist of Hawai‛i by the Honolulu Academy of Arts in 1991. Her works have been displayed in shows at the Museum of Contemporary Crafts, New York; Schmuckmuseum, Germany; Renwick Gallery, Washington; Hawai‛i Craftsmen; and East-West Center Gallery among many others.

“Frances not only adopted metalwork as her primary artistic interest, but she established metalwork ‘laboratories’ at Punahou School, Kamehameha Schools, and the Honolulu Museum of Art,” said longtime friend, Carole Chun.

One of the founders of Hawai‛i Craftsmen, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the art community of Hawai‛i, Frances served as both president and vice president throughout the years. The distinguished Frances Pickens Award of Excellence is presented to one exhibitor in the Hawai‛i Craftsmen Annual Statewide Juried Exhibit.

Another former president of Hawai‛i Craftsmen, Verna Kuyper, said, “Frances Pickens is remembered as a bright, cheerful, radiant lady with a gift of making everyone she met feel she really listened and cared about you. Her leadership and attention to detail made our organization an even better place for artists to learn and exhibit their work. Her jewelry embraces a creative whimsy in sculptural form, and her art lives on with many fortunate enough to possess her exquisite creations.”

One of Frances’s first student teachers, Tanya Alston, recounted how she was placed with Frances to do her student teaching 50 years ago.

Alston said, “I was at the University of Hawai‛i earning my degree in art education when Alex Pickens, who was the head of the department, placed me with Frances in the upper grades at Kamehameha Schools. I did not know what to expect, and I was surprised when I met Frances. She was a petite dynamo with a Southern twang, a welcoming smile, and a sweet disposition. We continued to be friends throughout the decades after I graduated. Frances taught me to nurture the young people who worked for me. She taught me to make teaching fun. She taught me to be generous with my knowledge. Those are all life lessons worth cherishing.

A Celebration of Life will be held at the home of Frances and Alex Pickens on January 19, 2018  from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm. Please contact Jennifer Herring at herring@hawaii.edu if you plan to attend and for directions. Donations in memory of Frances M.J. Pickens may be made to the Frances M.J. & Alexander Pickens Endowed Scholarship in Secondary Education fund.


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