At the end of last week, another professor at my small college campus died as the result of injuries sustained in a crash. It was a single vehicle accident (witnessed by one of his students), possibly the result of a seizure that caused him to loose control of the vehicle, run off the road into a river. There was a family funeral earlier this week in the next county. Friday we had a small, simple memorial service for faculty, staff and students.
I didn't know Ken very well. Very few of us did. He was very quiet, and kept to himself. At the memorial service it was reassuring to learn that he did have a few very good friends among at the college, people with whom he was open and sharing.
I regret that I didn't make more of an effort to know him, because I really liked what I did know. Some years ago, I drew Ken's name in our annual Christmas gift exchange. I had to do quite a bit of digging to get ideas. The woman who shared an office with him was able to tell me that Ken did stain glass work, and was quite good at it. I got him some patterns and some specialty glass. Now, I wish I'd followed up and found out what he'd done with my gift. One of the people who did know him well had seen his work, and said that it was beautiful.
Ken came to several professional development workshops I gave. He always asked good questions, had a subtle sense of humor, and made comments worth remembering. He was a large bear of a man, who always wore the same type of woven, white shirt, with no tie, no jacket winter and summer. He always seemed to be smiling.
I think many of us came away from the memorial service thinking the same thing -- that we have to make time to know people, to share with them, to be with them. College's are greedy institutions, they suck up faculty's time, the more you give, the more college's will take. Sometimes you just have to say "no" to work, and reach out to others.
After the memorial, another faculty member and I sat down and visited for nearly and hour. Mostly we talked about how stressed we were by work, but for once, instead of allowing that stress to cause us to part after a few hasty words, we relaxed for a while and caught up on each others' lives.