This weekend, as I processed the fact that the College of Education’s two top administrators died within a week of each other, I remembered standing in an old-growth forest. In front of me was an empty spot where a giant pine had been cut, then lifted out by helicopter. It was eerie. There was no road, little debris. Just a shaft of light falling on a flat spot where something used to be. That’s how I feel about the absence of Judy Mitchell and Len Foster from Cleveland Hall. They were such good people, people of substance, part of my professional and personal landscape. How can it be that they are just plain gone?
The mind goes strange places at times of stress. That was one of the messages that two campus counselors, Scott Case and Cassie Nichols, shared with staff and faculty members who gathered this morning to talk about our double loss. They reminded us that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to grieving, and certainly “no professional training that prepares you for this sort of thing.”
Our colleagues are finding personal ways to offer help and condolences this week. Among them is campus photographer Bob Hubner, who sent me the portrait posted above. He took it in the spring, when Len was attending a lecture by Anita Hill. I also take comfort in my remembered delight at the prospect of working more closely with Len, whose tall, straight frame would fill my office doorway when he stopped by. One recent day he wanted to share some surprising news. “Can you believe it!,” he said, grinning and shaking his head in wonderment. “Can you just believe it?!”
Well, no, Len. We can’t believe you and Judy are gone. But there are two shafts of light shining on the College of Education, and we look forward to seeing what new life takes hold there. — Julie Titone