Nancy Ellen Forgione, a Johns Hopkins University faculty member who created a course on the history and art of walking, died of sepsis Sunday at St. Joseph Medical Center. The Roland Park resident was 54.
Born in Baltimore and raised in Govans, she attended St. Mary of the Assumption Parochial School and was a 1970 graduate of Western High School. She earned a bachelor's degree in humanities at the Johns Hopkins University and met her future husband, Sun reporter Michael Hill, while they were students there.
She earned a master's degree in library science from the University of Maryland, College Park and was a cataloger and research librarian at the Maryland Institute College of Art from 1976 to 1981.
"Being a librarian ultimately was not stimulating enough, so she went back to Hopkins and got her doctorate," said a friend and undergraduate classmate, Ann Roberts, an art history professor at Lake Forest College in Illinois. "She loved ideas and books. Her house was full of them."
Dr. Forgione - who earned a second master's degree at Hopkins in art history, wrote her doctoral dissertation on the French artist Edouard Vuillard, whose paintings she admired for their interpretive challenges. She also taught at Hopkins in the 1980s.
After joining the Loyola College faculty, she traveled to South Africa in the mid-1990s. She taught art at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg for two years while her husband was bureau chief there for The Sun. Upon her return to Baltimore in 1996, she taught art history at the Maryland Institute and Goucher College.
In 1998, she resumed teaching at Hopkins and most recently was a visiting assistant professor in two programs on the Homewood campus - art history and master of liberal arts.
"She had a way of cutting through academic jargon and speaking to her students in a language they could understand," said Craig Hankin, a friend who is director of Hopkins' Homewood Art Workshops. "She had a combination of intellect and common sense."
"She was the kind of person who could make your day better with just a quick conversation while passing you in the hallway," said Adam Falk, arts and sciences dean at Hopkins.
Dr. Forgione was a rapid walker who paced a route along Roland Park's hills and lanes with several friends. She wrote a 2005 scholarly article, "Everyday Life in Motion: The Art of Walking in Late-Nineteenth-Century Paris," and created the course, "The History and Art of Walking," which included readings by Soren Kierkegaard, Jane Austen and Ray Bradbury. She also studied artists' use of shadow in 19th-century French painting.
"She was a highly respected scholar whose work is marked by original thought," said Michael Fried, Hopkins professor of humanities and history.
Dr. Forgione and her husband raised two sons, Albert Michael Hill Jr., a senior at Wesleyan University, and Owen Forgione Hill, a freshman at Brown University.
"She was involved in all aspects of their lives," her husband said yesterday. "She clearly passed on her love of learning to them."
At her death, she was teaching a survey of 19th-century art and planning to lead a group of Hopkins alumni to France for a study tour. She had submitted a book review to The Sun on Friday, shortly before being stricken with what was diagnosed as a meningococcal infection.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Johns Hopkins University Glass Pavilion, 3400 N. Charles St.
In addition to her husband and sons, survivors include her mother, Philomena Forgione of Timonium; two brothers, Donald Paul Forgione of Ellicott City and James Thomas Forgione of Richmond, Calif.; a sister, Julie Ann Forgione of New York City; and two nephews.