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Friday, February 6, 2009

A terrible loss


My first day at the University of Maryland, I was nervous. A huge school, thousands of new classmates, the feeling of being one tiny fish swimming in a massive ocean.

Cue our first Media Scholars colloquium. Walking into class that day, Dr. Chadha and Ken Joseph greeted each student by name: "Hi Jenna, hi Allie, hi Erin..."

It meant the world at that moment. To know that someone knew my name in this sea of faces instantly made me feel accepted and comfortable. Being part of Media Scholars was a key reason I was so happy at Maryland. I met some of my best friends there, and formed indelible bonds with our advisers.

Ken had a heart attack and died last night. Right now, I feel numb. He always had a smile and a laugh, ready to make a joke despite admitting to being devastatingly shy. His legendary emails were usually random and pages long, yet we read each word and laughed out loud.

From encouraging each Scholar to play in the annual softball tournament -- "It's for the kids!" -- to offering career advice and a sympathetic ear to bitch to, Ken was a constant presence in my life for four years.

At graduation, he went out of his way to find former Media Scholars and offer congratulations. He and Dr. Chadha hosted a seniors happy hour at Santa Fe last May, even though Ken said he hated college bars. Open houses were his least favorite days of the year, yet he pasted on a smile and gave his presentation again and again with minimal complaint.

Ken once told me that I could do anything in life: that it didn't matter what professors or parents said, but what I wanted to do and be.

Scholars won't be the same. Maryland won't. And I won't be the same for the lasting impression that Ken left on my life.

4 comments:

  1. I'm so sorry, Erin. I understand how much a professor can make such a big difference in your college experience. I am sending all my love to you over the ocean.

    Pass all that lovely knowledge and lessons in self assurance and esteem to the children that you teach, and he will never be forgotten.

    Again, I'm so sorry for your loss. **e-hugs**

    - Brittany

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  2. I'm so sorry Erin! I got to work with Ken when I was the editor-in-chief of Unwind and he was so fun to work with even though we didn't interact with him a whole lot.

    He did a lot for the scholars program and you're right, Maryland won't be the same without him.

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  3. Thanks for this, Erin. I saw a lot facebook status updates, but couldn't assume the worst until I read this. I'm so sorry to hear it, especially for those of you who knew KJo so well.

    I can't imagine what scholars will be like without him. Take his words and adivice, and pay tribute to him with your actions.

    love and a hug.

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  4. i wanted to tell you as soon as i heard, but i figured you were sleeping and would find out soon. im glad you and melissa can talk about it. this is so tragic and i'm in shock too :( i really really wish i'd talked to him more recently.

    how did you know it was a heart attack?

    hope you are doing well and stay strong!

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