SF State’s Longmore Institute on Disability director announces retirement

At the Longmore Institute, Catherine Kudlick cultivated an environment that celebrates disability

A graphic representation of Catherine Kudlick who announced her retirement early April as a  Director of the Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability. Kudlick served for over 10 years as director. (Rashik Adhikari / Golden Gate Xpress)

Rashik Adhikari

A graphic representation of Catherine Kudlick who announced her retirement early April as a Director of the Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability. Kudlick served for over 10 years as director. (Rashik Adhikari / Golden Gate Xpress)

Catherine Kudlick, an SF State History professor and the director of SF State’s Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability, announced her plans to retire near the end of June 2022. She has served as a faculty member for the university since August 2012 – nearly 10 years.

As a disabled person with vision impairment, Kudlick has been dedicated to working in disability studies for much of her career. From 2005 to 2009, Kudlick served as president of the Disability History Association and on the board of directors for the Society for Disability Studies. 

“I’ll miss the students and feeling a part of something more directly and feeling like I can make a difference in somebody’s life,” Kudlick said. “I’ll always be informally present, but I think when you direct something, you set a tone and you allow people to feel present and be heard.” 

Kudlick – a native of San Jose – received her Bachelor of Arts from UC Santa Cruz in 1980 and her Ph.D. from UC Berkeley in 1988. 

In 1989, Kudlick began a one year teaching job at Barnard College in New York as a visiting professor. From 1989 to 2012, she was a history professor at UC Davis, and a visiting professor at Conservatoire National Des Arts et Métiers in Paris, France. Since 2012, Kudlick has served as the first and only senior director of the Longmore Institute on Disability along with Associate Director Emily Smith Beitiks. 

“I think it’s just a loss because this campus, more broadly than the Longmore Institute, doesn’t really have anyone else who is an openly disabled scholar talking about disability studies,” Beitiks said. “That’s such an incredible virtue it brought to the university that students with disabilities could learn about their heritage and their history and learn it from somebody who’s been personally on that same journey.” 

Since 2012, Kudlick and the Longmore Institute have run the Superfest Disability Film Festival, which is the longest-running disability film festival in the world. 

“It’s an amazing experience to kind of show disability representation, filmmaking, to bring in audio description for people that can’t see the films, to just make it a community celebration and experience,” said Kudlick. 

Kudlick has had several published works, including her books, “Reflections: The Life and Writings of a Young Blind Woman in Post-Revolutionary France,” with Dr. Zina Weygand, and “Cholera in Post-Revolutionary Paris: A Cultural History.” 

In 2010, after the sudden and unexpected death of disability activist and SF State Professor Paul K. Longmore, Kudlick ensured the completion and publication of Longmore’s book, “Telethons: Spectacles, Disability, and the Business of Charity.” 

In her 10 years at SF State, Kudlick has continued to steer campus attention to disability activism and studies. SF State History professor Trevor Getz expressed that Kudlick’s ability to empower students and increase disability visibility will be missed at SF State. 

“I think that Cathy is an amazing organizer of a field of study whose subjects, the people of those studies, need to be a big part of scholarship,” Getz said. “It’s everything San Francisco State says it stands for around meaningful work that engages and is informed by the communities who will be affected by that work. That’s disability studies as Cathy understands it.” 

Kudlick’s decision to retire was primarily due to reaching retirement age and to make room for someone else’s vision at the Longmore Institute. The process to replace Kudlick is dependent on the university and could take up to several years for them to find a replacement. According to Kudlick, she wanted to leave the Longmore Institute at its height rather than deserting something that is no longer viable.

After her retirement from SF State, Kudlick plans to move to Portland, Oregon with her partner of many years and their two cats. There, she will continue writing her next novel, which she has been working on for the past five years.