Local Obituaries

Hollywood poet, University of Miami law professor Marzi Kaplan dies at 79

POET LAUREATE: Marlyne “Marzi” Kaplan, a poet, was an adjunct professor at UM’s School of Law.
POET LAUREATE: Marlyne “Marzi” Kaplan, a poet, was an adjunct professor at UM’s School of Law.

Marlyne “Marzi” Kaplan wasn’t a Libra, the sign of balance, if you believe in astrology. But she found a sense of balance in her professional life.

Kaplan, who died Aug. 15 at 79 in Hollywood, was a retired law professor at her alma mater, the University of Miami, and St. Thomas University.

She was also a poet laureate in Hollywood, founded the South Florida Poetry Institute, wrote non-fiction and was on the Carbonell Theater Awards Committee, where she championed the best among South Florida’s theatrical productions.

Kaplan mastered both aesthetics of law and literature and found a way to make them work harmoniously.

“Marzi was my teacher at the University of Miami School of Law. I took her course, Law, Language, and Literature. As far as I can tell, everyone who took her course loved it. She was always warm, witty and entertaining,” Carbonell panelist Thomas Regnier said in an email to the Miami Herald. Her support led to his involvement with the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship and the Carbonells.

“She asked me to keep her informed of any developments or comments that I received in relation to my study of Shakespeare and the law. As it turned out, there was a lot to report over the years,” Regnier said.

Born in Newark, New Jersey, Kaplan moved to Miami at 10 in 1946 when her family sought warmer climes for her asthmatic younger sister.

“Northern 10-year-olds find comfort in snow shovels, not sand shovels. Brownstones with stoops, not pastel homes with lawns. Saddle-oxfords, not bare feet,” she wrote of the adjustments that came fast in a Christmas essay, Jewish Noel, in the Miami Herald in 1996.

Kaplan graduated from Miami Senior High School in 1954 and graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s in education from UM in 1958. In 1981, after teaching elementary school and winning awards for her poetry at the Seven Lively Arts Poetry Competition in Hollywood, Kaplan was inspired to get her law degree at UM. There, she served as director of career development and spent 23 years with the university as an adjunct law professor.

“The law school was enriched by Marzi Kaplan's creative and thoughtful presence for many years,” said Patricia White, dean and professor at UM’s School of Law.

Kaplan also chaired the Florida Bar Journal and The Florida Bar News editorial boards, served on the boards of WPBT-Channel 2, the Miami Book Fair International and the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival. Her essays were included in the Miami Herald and the Sun Sentinel.

Kaplan shared her passion for the arts with fellow writers and theater critics, among them Bill Hirschman, editor in chief of Florida Theater On Stage.

“While she seemed like a nurturing grandmotherly type, she also had a quietly wicked sense of humor, an incisive mind at analyzing what she saw, an unusually open receptivity to all kinds of theater, an easily recognizable laugh and a smile that you could see all the way across a lobby,” Hirschman wrote in an email.

“As a Carbonell mainstay, she had impeccable taste and discernment — adoring and championing fine work but never giving a free pass to substandard shows even if everyone around her were cheering them.”

Kaplan is survived by her husband, Douglas; children Russell Kaplan, Hilary Gitlitz and Karen Siegel, and six grandchildren. Services were held.

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