Gone, Forgotten, and Dismissed: Obit for a Colleague

DATELINE: Corona of Career

It’s minor and troubling to almost no one, except perhaps me.

A colleague of many years passed away not quite ten years after retiring. She was on the faculty of our small college for thirty years, same time and same length as I.

As Robert Frost once said, happiness reaches in height what it lacks in length. We were the disgruntled, unhappy “employees” of the College, even denied being called “faculty” by administration in our living and breathing careers.

The rank of professor meant nothing much, a professor emeritus was denied to us.

How much worse can it be when we die off?

The announcement of her death form the Human Resources Center came from a director who never knew her. It was a pithy two sentences saying she had “worked” at the college in Nursing Department for many years. Because of the pandemic, there would be no services. There was no additional information.

And apparently no other remembrances or comments. This was her final moment on the college register. No eulogy, no thanks, no appreciation, no nothing.

It shall be the same for me. In a tight-knit department like Nursing, she was anathema: disliked by her colleagues for being a stickler for the regulations, and not participating in the social life of fake camaraderie among those with whom you share no politics. So it was for me.

There once existed a half-dozen of us from differing departments who sat together, a huddled small group, at all faculty meetings. We recognized each other as pariahs of the school. If we didn’t sit together, no one would sit with us.

In the past decade we retired to no particular fanfare. Now we are dying to no particular notice.

I visited her at her office now and then, gave her copies of my books that were published, and she was appreciative. Two other faculty of that ilk have also died in recent years. We were a grim little group of despised faculty members: not by students, but by our fellow faculty.

If no department head colleague will do cheerleading of your credentials, hard work, accomplishments at the college at death, then there is nothing more to be said.

You are relegated to non-person, name stricken from the record, students never to breathe your name unless in curse for a low grade.

Thus, the end came for another kind associate. It made me hope the college will be one of those they say may close its doors in a few years: let all of them on faculty for those decades  share the same fate.

This memorial eulogy is anonymous for an unnamed, unknown faculty member from a breed of small liberal arts colleges that are fading away one by one.