Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Remembering a great CC staff member

Last month I had the privilege to give a speech at Finger Lakes Community College as part of a huge statewide completion day event led by FLCC. In being part of that event, I got another grand privilege - I got to meet Bob Matson

I just got an e-mail informing me that Bob passed away from a sudden heart attack yesterday. And my heart is breaking right now. 

I worked with Bob closely the weeks leading up to the event via phone, and then spent the day of the event with him at FLCC. And while I only spent one day in person with Bob, it was a day I'll truly never forget. 

I had a lot of time in between my early afternoon speech and end-of-the-day meeting with the Board of Trustees, and Bob asked me if I wanted to do my own thing or have a tour of the college with him.

Usually I'm pretty exhausted after a speech, but Bob was so dynamic, that I knew I couldn't miss the opportunity. 

On our walk we watched the lumberjack team do some impressive chops, toured the beautiful new cafeteria area where he spoke highly of his colleagues, and we toured the CMAC Performing Arts Center, a beautiful outdoor arena he absolutely loved. 
View from the CMAC stage with Bob
We stood on the stage and looked out at the breathtaking scene beyond the bleachers, as he talked about having me back to speak at graduation, dreaming out loud of what it would be like when FLCC students graduated that Spring, excited about the results of completion day. 

Bob's vigor for his work poured out of him, and as we walked, we brainstormed. He was so intelligent and positive, and we came up with so many ideas for how we could raise more money for community college students and rally community members to make a difference in the lives of students who struggle.* 

We spent hours and hours talking about our ideas and passion for community colleges, and making plans for future projects. I knew I had met someone very special. 

Bob was 53, but he talked with the energy of a 23-year-old, excited to move and shake things, to try something new, to innovate, to change lives. But unlike a 23-year-old, he had wisdom beyond his years and knew how to execute his ideas in a way that created real change.

I am so thankful I got to play a small part in one of Bob's many contributions to the community college world and the Canandaigua community. I feel devastated that I won't get to talk with him again, that I won't get to hear more of his ideas or experience again his pure energy for life, change, growth, and helping other people. 

I came home from that day at FLCC and told my husband all about Bob, how I had never met anyone who was so full of life and so dedicated to innovating in his community college work. In that short time Bob inspired me so much, so I cannot even begin to imagine how much he inspired those who knew him well, and how much they are hurting right now. My heart goes out to all of you, especially his family. 

When I left Bob at the end of the day, he told me that before I leave I should check out the grocery store Wegmans. One of his colleagues laughed and rolled her eyes endearingly, as I soon learned Wegman's was Bob's "thing." 

I was exhausted, but I knew that if Bob had told me it was great, then I should go. I drove up to this wonderfully fun store, and I could see why Bob liked it. I got a delicious vanilla cupcake, and ate it in the cozy dining area, thinking about how much I felt a part of the community in that moment. That is what Bob did, I think. He made people feel like they were a part of something special. And it turns out, the something special, was him. 

*Bob was very passionate about mobilizing the community to donate more to community colleges as their budgets dwindle. So in honor of Bob, I encourage you to donate something to your local community college. Any student will tell you, every little bit helps. I also encourage you to take a quick second to send a note to a community college staff member who has made a difference in your life. 

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