Burstein taught at Drew for 35 years, concurrently earning her masters and PhD from the school
January 2023 – Drew University mourns the loss of Dr. Janet Burstein G’70’75, a longtime teacher in the College of Liberal Arts and Caspersen School of Graduate Studies and a two-time Caspersen graduate.
Burstein passed away on December 20, 2022, at the age of 89.
Burstein, originally from Jersey City, NJ, graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from William Smith College in 1954 and moved to Cedar Grove, NJ, with her husband the same year. The couple had two children, Julie and Mark.
She began taking masters courses in English literature in the Caspersen School in 1967. She completed her masters in 1970 and began work on her PhD, which she received in 1975.
While pursuing her masters, Burstein began her teaching career at Drew in 1969. She was named Assistant Professor of English in 1978 and retired in 2004 as Professor of English. Upon her retirement in 2004, Burstein was bestowed the honor of Professor of English Literature, Emerita.
The resolution affirming Burstein as professor emerita noted her having “given back indefatigably to Drew as teacher, colleague, and University citizen” and “manifested an incomparable gentleness of manner and an inexhaustible strength of spirit in all her work at Drew University.”
She was an active participant in the school’s Jewish Studies program, and taught courses on Victorian literature, women’s literature, Jewish American literature, and Israeli cinema. She guided many graduate students through their dissertations in her many fields.
Burstein was one of the founders of the Continuing Education for Women program in the CLA and the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies in the Caspersen School, the latter of which has since evolved into the school’s Arts & Letters program.
While teaching, Burstein published the first of her two books, Writing Mothers, Writing Daughters: Tracing the Maternal in Stories by Jewish American Women (1996). She published her second book, Telling the Little Secrets: Jewish American Writing Since the 1980’s (2006), two years after retiring from Drew.
Colleagues at Drew remark upon Burstein’s profound impact on the University, how she was beloved by students and peers alike, and how devoted her students were to her for the efforts she made for them.
Perhaps Burstein herself encapsulated it best in a frequent refrain heard by colleagues.
“All the teaching was life for me.”