Obituary: Carolyn Lesorogol, Brown School Professor, 58


Carolyn Kornfeld Lesorogol, a beloved professor for 20 years at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, died Thursday, May 17, 2023, of cancer. She was 58.

Lesorogol​ grew up in the St. Louis suburb of Frontenac. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1987 with a bachelor’s degree in social studies. She completed master’s degrees from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1991, and Washington University in 2000. In 2002, she obtained a doctorate in anthropology from Washington University.

Lesorogol joined the faculty of the Brown School in 2003, concurrently serving as an adjunct in anthropology in Arts & Sciences at WashU. She was named a full professor at the Brown School in 2016. From 2014 to 2020, Lesorogol served as associate dean for global strategy and programs, leading the Brown School’s development of global initiatives and educational programs.​

“Carolyn was a brilliant, remarkable human being with an unwavering commitment to her students, global research, and the communities she lived in and worked with in Kenya. From the first to her last days at the Brown School, she was deeply engaged and incredibly thoughtful. She has made an indelible and lasting impact on the Brown School, her colleagues, and former students,” said Interim Co-Dean Tonya Edmond. “I will miss her terribly, but we will cherish her memory as a champion of international development and an irreplaceable member of the Brown School family.”​

​Lesorogol was a leading scholar in her field. She specialized in international social development, with a particular focus on community change in rural northern Kenya. She earned numerous awards, fellowships, and grant support. She authored two books, 40 peer-reviewed articles, and eight book chapters.

Lesorogol’s impact extended far beyond her academic achievements. She touched the lives of those around her as a teacher, mentor, mother, wife, and friend. Professor Lora Iannotti fondly recalled their initial meeting and immediate connection.

“I first met Carolyn when I came to WashU for my job talk and interview. By the end of our lunch meeting, we were already planning ways to collaborate. She would become one of my closest research partners and dearest friends.” 

“Carolyn was more inquisitive than anyone I know,” reminisced Iannotti. “She asked probing questions on broad-ranging topics and was never satisfied until she understood the answers. Carolyn once told me she wanted to be a journalist for NPR – an entirely imaginable, alternative career for her.”

Iannotti added, “Carolyn’s legacy as a true academic, teacher and mentor, mother, wife, and friend will endure. Her impacts on so many will undoubtedly reverberate through time.”  

Tammy Orahood, director of global programs, also praised Lesorogol’s dedication to the Brown School community, emphasizing her genuine interest in others.

“I always admired her dedication to students. Her door was always open to current students, to alumni with whom she steadfastly kept in touch, and to staff and fellow faculty for collaborations. She was always patient, kind, and truly interested in you as a person. Carolyn was my boss, my mentor, my friend, and the world is poorer with her loss. She will be greatly missed,” expressed Orahood.

Lesorogol is survived by her daughters Sarah Lesorogol Shivers, Jennifer Lesorogol Eyen, and Emily Lesorogol, grandsons Namon Jones and Sterling Shivers, sons-in-law DeVonte Shivers and Joe Eyen, father Stuart Kornfeld, sister Katherine Kornfeld and brother Kerry Kornfeld. She was predeceased by her mother Rosalind Kornfeld and her husband Leretin Lesorogol.

In honor of Lesorogol’s remarkable contributions to academia, her colleagues and friends have established The Carolyn Lesorogol Global Student Endowed Scholarship. The scholarship will honor Lesorogol’s life’s work and passions while creating a legacy of student support in her memory and inspiring future social workers.​

Those who wish to share memories or send condolences can visit Lesorogol’s obituary page.​​​