I don’t know what it is about death, but as a friend said recently, it comes in waves. Several colleagues and former students have lost parents, a good friend of my husband’s lost his wife to cancer, and a professor from NLU died unexpectedly, all in the last few weeks. I found out about Walter Westrum yesterday and am in shock. He was the advisor to my Technology in Education cluster at National Louis University several years ago, and we kept in sporadic touch and usually ran into each other at the Illinois Technology Conference for Educators. The above link is to some pictures he took there last spring, and I had not seen them before until I googled his name tonight.
I remember Walt as an enthusiastic supporter of everyone in my cluster, even though we were not the easiest bunch to deal with. He was honest, sincere, and hard working. He believed that we would all succeed; I distinctly remembering him saying that we would all go on to make our marks in our profession. I also remember doubting him at the time! I know he had faith in me, even though at the beginning of this current leg of my career, I did not share that same faith in myself.
I also remember laughing hysterically in his class in a particularly cathartic moment. We were all presenting budgets and rationales as a mock exercise for researching equipment, and one of my cluster colleagues, Lori, had a grand total of millions of dollars for her proposed mock budget. We had all had reasonable totals in our projects, and we came to hers and she read this enormous number aloud. It was so funny at the time, and we simply could not stopping laughing. I love those kind of moments where you just can’t help yourself. They are few and far between sometimes.
Another thing that stood out to me regarding Walt, was his love of his family. He was particularly proud of his children, and you could tell that he was a good father. I remember a video he showed for our networking class that involved his son whom I vaguely recall did networking stuff in the Navy. Walt was just an all around good guy it seems.
The lesson learned here is that life is fleeting. Let Walt’s death also serve as an impetus for us to acknowledge the teachers in our lives. It is important to let the teachers in our pasts that we appreciated their efforts. I’ve done this for a few people in my life including an English teacher from high school and a tennis coach I had at Beloit, but I never took the opportunity to do so with Walt. I just assumed he’d be around, I suppose. From his death, I am learning to not take people for granted.