- Henry S. Breitrose, founder of Stanford’s world-renowned documentary film program, dead at 78, Stanford Report
Colleagues described Breitrose, who taught the history of film and film aesthetics at Stanford for more than five decades, as a man “absolutely in love” with film.
From the start of the Stanford Introductory Seminars program until 2010 Prof. Breitrose offered uncommon insight to sophomores in COMM 118Q Theories of Film Practice–one of the most popular courses offered by IntroSems. When asked about teaching in 2010 –“I’m having such a good time with the students currently that I’m inspired to do it again.” The program is indebted to his dedication and generosity of educating students at the start of college.
Henry was very dear to us. We lived a block away from him and Prue and relished every contact with them. Henry and we talked not only about film, but about any and all things, and he always had something striking–often unexpected–to say. We were hoping that Henry and Prue would join us at the Sequoias and we invited them to look the place over. Henry’s death is a real loss, for he had a vitality that was infectious. We’ll miss him very much.
Henry was a gentleman and a scholar who will be deeply missed. I know him as a wonderful next-door neighbor who exuded warmth, energy, and positivity. He had a profound love for his wife, Pru, and his children, Becky and Charlie. Our deep sympathy extends to his family, friends, and colleagues.
There are some people that I just sort of expect to be around forever. Prof. Breitrose was one of those people. I remember when I first got my job as Media and Reserves Specialist, he introduced himself and said that he would be sending a lot of work my way. He was true to his word.
He was demanding but understanding. He did not hesitate to let me know that he saw me as an asset to his and his department’s academic and research pursuits. He also had kind words to say to others about my work which I appreciated. He was full of interesting anecdotes that he would relate to me from time to time. His tentacles were also far reaching into the world of entertainment He influenced many famous former students such as David Chase, Gail Anne Hurd, and Sigourney Weaver just to name a few. I have missed and will continue to miss him greatly.
Henry was department chair in Communication when I was there studying with the late Everett Rogers. He was always accessible, friendly, down-to-earth and helpful even though i was somewhat of an interloper, doing a minor in the Department from a PhD program in what was then called the Stanford University School of Education (SUSE) now the Graduate School of Education (GSE). We stayed in touch over the years and he became the generous donor of faculty tickets, one to his seat in the faculty section for Corey Booker’s commencement speech a few years ago and tickets for Stanford’s Orange Bowl win. I will miss running into him, talking about Departmental doings, campus life and life in general. May he rest in peace.
I remember Henry with extreme gratitude and with great admiration.
Henry was a life-changer for me. In 1978, I met with him to explore an impossible dream, Stanford’s Documentary program. I had no money, finished my undergraduate degree at SF State working full time and taking evening and weekend classes. Who was I to believe I could make documentary films? Or go to someplace like Stanford? Nervously, I prepared my answers for what I thought would be his questions. Instead, we discussed conflicts in the Middle East and how to make people care, how to engage Americans audiences in global issues. . . we talked for more than hour and I was still waiting for a grilling about why I thought I was worthy of the Documentary program. Instead, he said, simply, “apply”. I replied, “I have no money.” He assured me that funding would be found “from the postage account” if I was accepted. Long story short, I was. And the funding appeared. And for the first time in my life I realized that it was possible to dream big and have those dreams come true. Thank you, Henry! You made a difference in so many lives.
Margaret Barnett aka Maggie Stogner, ’83
From his role as a founder of the Wisconsin Film Society in the mid-1950s to his generous help finding expert journalists in Beijing for me in 1992-93 and until the day he died, Henry was a model of imagination, decency, intelligence, caring and commitment. Jean and I will miss him very, very much.
I have the fondest of memories of my countless conversations with Henry, each one of them an intellectual treat. He had so many interesting things to say about so many interesting topics. Henry was wonderful colleague who understood the meaning of collegiality. When I arrived at Stanford in 1990, it was Henry who took the time to introduce me to colleagues in other departments and programs. It was an act of kindness typical of Henry’s generosity.
Suzanne Joe Kai
I will dearly miss Professor Breitrose. He was a bright beam of light shining on future roads yet untraveled for me beginning when I was a student (MA, Communication) doing my first documentary years ago for KRON TV, San Francisco – all the way to this year. Henry, you will continue to inspire me.