It’s subtle, but if you look on the wall to the right, you’ll see some markings. One of my colleagues would stand at that corner, back leaned up against it, lifting one leg and placing a shoe against the wall.
How many times over the years he stood there, just outside my office, as we drank coffee and talked about the problems of the college, laughed at the things students said to us, wondered how the country got to wherever it was that day or just talked about our kids.
I joked once I was going to hang a sign there, Snark’s Corner. That’s mostly what we did, tossing off snarky comments that would make our department admin laugh at us.
Those marks … I don’t know how long they’ll stay there, visible from my desk chair. There won’t be any more as my colleague, my mentor, my counselor and my friend Barry Hollander died early this morning. Cancer, too young, too soon.
We went to see him on Sunday in the hospital. Physically weak but mentally still … snarky. He wanted to decide who would get his office, the one he liked to point out was one square foot larger than the others on the back hall.
That was Hollander – he knew how big everyone’s office was because he pulled the building blueprints years ago. He also pulled the university’s parking ticket data every fall and analyzed the distribution by lot and time, sorted it by vehicle type, too.
This was his 27th year teaching and, for most of those, he taught the various iterations of our introduction to reporting classes. Through large lectures and some of the writing labs, he is the common thread that binds almost three decades worth of Grady College journalism grads – he taught almost every single one of them.
The news came to us at the start of the day, some online posts from relatives and then I got the call from his wife. Early this morning, his kids made it back to town to see him last night, it was peaceful.
It seemed like the whole building shuddered and sobbed quietly throughout the day.
I couldn’t teach my morning class, I let them know what had happened and apologized, then dismissed them. My afternoon class, kids I know much better, we spent some time telling Hollander stories. (Everyone has a Hollander story.)
Then we did what he would have wanted – we talked about journalism, we talked about the ways we make it better, we analyzed some stories, we talked about its importance to the survival of a democracy.
That’s the real mark he left – it’s not footprints on a wall, it’s the passion for journalism he instilled in thousands of students.
And the mark they will leave upon their communities and the next generation of journalists.
He’s at peace now, the pain at last subsided. My heart aches at our loss, but it breaks for his family’s.
Too young, too soon.