Know your neighbors, know your town, empower the community.

Obituary: Diana Elizabeth Edelman Kleiner

December 14, 2023
Time to read:
Obituary: Diana Elizabeth Edelman Kleiner

Diana Elizabeth Edelman Kleiner, affectionally “DEEK”, passed away peacefully on November 12 at the age of 76.  She was an art historian known worldwide for her expertise on the art and architecture of the ancient Romans.

Diana was the Dunham Professor of History of Art and Classics at Yale University, where she taught from 1980 to 2020.  She loved her subject and her students.  In the classroom, she was known for her dynamic lectures and colorful wardrobes.  As the Founding Director of Open Yale Courses, she trailblazed new methods of teaching online.  In the early 2000s, at a time when most were scared to share their scholarly work online, she dared to be different and created beautiful digital courses that touched countless students far beyond Yale.  Through her immortal online lectures, she left a permanent legacy across the globe.

Her online students frequently sang her praises.  Learners sometimes logged on from remote villages with limited internet connectivity.  She stayed up late on most nights chatting in online message boards and building personal relationships with admiring students.

Diana loved to travel, especially to Rome, and encouraged her students to go as well.  She believed that learning should be hybrid—both in-person and online—many years before the world discovered it.  Her excursions were not just about the obvious tourist sights.  They were about experiencing all the nooks and crannies of both the ancient and modern city of Rome.  She proudly guided students not only to the Top 10 Monuments, but also to the Top 10 Gelaterias.

Diana dedicated much of her scholarly life to and completed seminal work on Roman women, including the ground-breaking exhibition “I Claudia:  Women in Ancient Rome.”  She is also the author of Cleopatra and Rome, which opened a new perspective on one of the most intriguing women who ever lived.  In dedicating her life to an ancient society ruled by male emperors, she gave a voice to Roman women and introduced them to the world.

Her accomplishments are too many to list, but there are several more that deserve mention.  She is the author of numerous books and articles on Roman art in its political and social context, including Roman Sculpture (1992), which remains the fundamental reference on the subject.  In 2014, she created the magical, interactive e-book, Roman Architecture:  A Visual Guide, which includes maps, geolocation links, and more than 250 photographs, most of them taken on her own trips to Europe.  Diana was the first woman to chair Yale’s Classics Department; the first female Head of Pierson College; and from 1995 to 2003, Deputy Provost for the Arts with responsibility for arts, divinity, and new media.

Diana earned her B.A. at Smith College in 1969, and her M.A., M. Phil., and Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1970, 1974, and 1976.

She is the daughter of Hilda and Morton Edelman, whom she loved dearly. She is survived by her husband Fred, son Alex, and grandchildren Teddy and Samantha. She was a devoted mother who put her son above anything else and taught him that hard work and creativity can be an unstoppable combination.

Funeral services are private.  The Wakelee Memorial Funeral Home, 167 Wakelee Avenue, Ansonia is in care of the arrangements.  Online condolences may be made at 

This is an opinion not necessarily endorsed by the Woodbridge Town News.

Related articles