Kathleen "Kate" Corcoran
1947 - 2021
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Kathleen "Kate" Corcoran

Iowa City - Kathleen "Kate" Corcoran, 73, died peacefully in hospice care at The Bird House in Iowa City, Sunday, February 14, 2021, surrounded by her family and dearest friends. A memorial to celebrate Kate's life is being planned for later this year.

Kate was born on June 3, 1947, in Iowa City, the daughter of Richard T. and Margaret J. (O'Connor) Corcoran. For most of her childhood, the family home was a foursquare on East Market Street, from where she delivered newspapers with her brother and walked to her first job at Pearson's Drug Store. She attended St. Mary's School and was a 1965 graduate of Regina High School.

Continuing her love for learning, Kate attended the University of Iowa (UI) where she studied elementary and special education. She was an alto in University Choir, a senator in student government, a drummer in the Scottish Highlanders, and held positions in an array of student groups. She was a member of Chi Omega sorority and was elected to Mortar Board and Pi Lambda Theta honors societies.

After graduating in 1969, she moved to Kuwait on a whim to teach elementary school science at the International School of Kuwait. There, she met a Swedish civil engineer, Lars R. Hill; they married in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1974, and right away were off to explore the world.

Together, they lived on three continents across 11 time zones: from Lusaka, Zambia, to Gothenburg, Sweden; Stockholm to Paris; Brussels to Boston; and on to New York City, where Kate attended Columbia University and received a master's degree in journalism in 1978.

After graduate school, Kate worked for CBS News, starting at the local affiliate and moving up to the foreign desk at CBS headquarters in New York, where she managed correspondents overseas covering the Iran hostage crisis and produced news segments including the "60 Minutes" interview with Fidel Castro. She was very proud to have worked in a dynamic newsroom surrounded by some of the best journalists in the world.

Kate was a humble, generous person and cared deeply for everyone she encountered. She appreciated cultural diversity, great food, and lively conversation, taking time to compliment strangers, particularly if they were babies or dogs. Her love for travel took her to 42 countries; stamps filled seven passports, several of which had extra page inserts.

Kate and Lars returned twice to the Midwest, finally settling in Iowa City in 1986 to raise their two children: Elizabeth, born in Brussels in 1981, and Alexander, born in Moline, Ill., in 1985.

At 41, while juggling two kids and family obligations, she realized a lifelong dream and began law school at the University of Iowa, where she was a writer for and the managing editor of Iowa Law Review. After graduation in 1991, Kate clerked for Iowa Supreme Court Justice Linda K. Neuman, the first woman on Iowa's highest court, and then became an associate attorney practicing civil litigation and bankruptcy for Childers & Fiegen law firm in Cedar Rapids. She was executive director of the Iowa Supreme Court Commission on Planning for the 21st Century, which resulted in the state court system's first strategic plan.

In 1994, she joined the UI School of Journalism and Mass Communication, where she would spend the next 10 years as an adjunct professor and director of career services. She taught editing and writing courses and a workshop class whose students produced the school's biannual alumni magazine, Iowa Journalist. In 2000, the school's student chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists recognized her with its Faculty Member of the Year award, an honor that deeply humbled her.

While teaching at UI, Kate studied to become a mediator, and in 1996 opened her solo civil practice in Iowa City. She was honored for her work in mediation with a Governor's Award for Public Service in 1997.

Kate and Lars left Iowa City in 2004 and moved to Seattle where she was a lecturer at the University of Washington School of Law and later directed the school's Public Service Law Program. The couple divorced in 2009 but remained close friends.

In 2012, Kate moved back to Iowa City, where she worked as a medical claims specialist, supporting the rollout of the Affordable Care Act. She became a Democratic Party field organizer in 2016 for the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, and then a technical writer for ACT.

Kate was a strong feminist, engaged in politics, an advocate for equal rights, and active in public service, serving a six-year term on the Iowa City Board of Adjustment and three years on the local Historic Preservation Commission. She loved helping to preserve the very best of Iowa City, and spent three years as a board member of the Iowa City Friends of Historic Preservation.

Besides memories of her family and friends, Kate's happiest and proudest recollections were of the thousands of students - of all ages and from around the world - whom she taught, advised, and mentored. She helped hundreds of students obtain graduate admission, fellowships, internships, clerkships, and jobs, and felt joy to have made any small contribution to their professional and personal successes.

Kate was a master editor of the written word and spoke several foreign languages, including Swedish, French, and Arabic. She read newspapers voraciously, did daily crossword puzzles in pen, was quick to solve the word or phrase on "Wheel of Fortune," and dominated the fiercest competitor in Scrabble. She wrote a personal essay "Drawn to Downtown" in the book Finials: A View of Downtown Iowa City, and edited thousands of essays, applications, resumes, news articles, and her daughter's first book, Hiking Iowa: A Guide to Iowa's Greatest Hiking Adventures.

She loved to cook, having mastered numerous recipes from around the globe, such as Swedish meatballs, Indian curries, and Texas sheet cake, which she always made for birthdays. She hummed when she was happy, often while listening to jazz; appreciated fine art, and devoured book after book. Reading was her simple joy. As a true Hawkeye fan, Kate was proud of her city, the state of Iowa, and her alma mater, the University of Iowa.

Survivors include Lars Hill, of Iowa City; their children, Elizabeth Hill, of Iowa City, and Alexander Hill, of Pittsburgh, Penn.; her brother, Tom Corcoran, of Iowa City; nieces Anne Thomas, of Coralville, Iowa, and Trisha Thomas and Megan Corcoran, both of Lawrence, Kan.; 15 cousins; and six grandnieces and six grandnephews. Her parents, her sister Jayne, and her sister-in-law Joanna predeceased her.

As a final act of sharing, after courageously fighting uterine cancer for more than six years, she donated her body for medical science study at the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, where she received incredible care from Dr. Gwen Beck, Dr. David Bender, and her physician assistant Anna Conroy.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Kate's name to the Iowa City Friends of Historic Preservation, P.O. Box 2001, Iowa City, IA 52245 or https://www.ic-fhp.org/donate-become-a-member, or The Bird House - Hospice Home of Johnson County, where she received compassionate care, at P.O. Box 3338, Iowa City, IA 52244 or www.hospicehomejc.org/donate. Online condolences may be posted at www.lensingfuneral.com.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in the Des Moines Register from Feb. 19 to Feb. 21, 2021.
No memorial events are currently scheduled. To offer your sympathy during this difficult time, you can now have memorial trees planted in a National Forest in memory of your loved one.
Memories & Condolences
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3 entries
February 23, 2021
I worked with Kate at ACT, sitting next to her I got to know her very well. She was a wonderful lady, talked about her children and all her life adventures. She made us delicious treats (Almond cake and Chocolate sheet cake) and she always thought of us during the holidays. I’m very fortunate that I had the opportunity to get to know Kate, my condolences go out to her family.
Twyla Freeman
February 21, 2021
I was a one of her students and was I was suffering badly from Bipolar disorder. I was probably going to drop out for a third time without finishing my degree. I’ll never forget she took interest in me and helped me get some grades fixed and offered life advice. I ended up graduating and even earned a Master’s degree years later. She would be very proud. I’m sorry the world lost this amazing person so soon. My thoughts and prayers are with the family. This woman made an impact on my life like no other. Thank you for sharing her with me.
February 19, 2021
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