Emotional Times

The last few weeks have been pretty tough. Normally I would follow such a statement with details of being really busy in the office or tales from a hectic recruitment trip in New England. Though work has been quite busy and I have been on the road for the better part of the last month, the rough times I speak of today stem from a number of stories that have deeply impacted the Hopkins community this fall. I'll get back to blogging about all that is happening in Admissions and entries focusing on the application process in the coming days, but since I have this forum I thought it appropriate to share my thoughts.

To start, if you have yet to hear, nearly two weeks ago the Hopkins community suffered a tragic loss. Miriam Frankl, a junior in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, was the victim of a hit-and-run accident. She was unable to recover from the injuries she suffered in the accident and passed early on the morning of Saturday, October 17 with her parents and many of her friends at her side. For me, the following lines from a message from the deans to the campus community really expressed the impact this horrific incident had immediately on the entire Hopkins community:

Every student contributes in no small measure to the community we create together at Johns Hopkins. The loss of any student, particularly in so tragic and senseless manner, grievously wounds us all.

I learned of the accident very early on Saturday morning when I woke up and was preparing to head to the Homewood campus for one of our fall Open House programs. As I drove to campus I was highly emotional. My heart was heavy, I had a lump in my throat, tears filled my eyes, and a sense of confusion overwhelmed my brain. Though I had only met Miriam a few times in her freshman year, I knew that so many of the students I know well were very close friends with her. I knew she was one of those special students that mixed intelligence and a dedication to academic pursuits, with a love of life, a strong commitment to her friends, and an overwhelming positive spirit. All I could think of was why do such senseless acts of tragedy occur? The Open House and subsequent days were tough, but I did get to see our campus community come together to mourn and support those hurting the most. It is sad that sometimes only in tragic times do you get to see the real strength in people.

Even though days have passed, people are still hurting. The subsequent investigation of the accident and the horrific details that have come out in the news surrounding the driver and the incidents of the day have made the healing difficult. Many, including me, are quite angered with what we have learned through the criminal investigation, and that has really delayed the healing process. However, this is not the place to discuss those details. I know that in the coming days, weeks, and months the campus will continue to heal while also never forgetting Miriam. We all are just pretty much dealing with raw emotions right now, some considerably more than others.

A week prior to this tragic loss, the Hopkins community was shocked by a message sent by our recently installed new President, Ron Daniels. President Daniels sent an email to students, faculty, and staff detailing that he had undergone surgery to remove a small mass in his abdomen, near his pancreas. The message did start with a note that President Daniels' prognosis is excellent and a full recovery is expected. However, knowledge that President Daniels would spend approximately eight weeks away from the office concerned many, including me. Thankfully, in a message 10 days after the surgery, President Daniels shared with the community that the results of the surgery and pathology reports have led to very good news.

A definite set-back and scare for President Daniels who had set a very fast pace in his first months in office, but thankfully all the news has been good since the surgery. In his communications with the campus community, it was good to see President Daniels humor still on display:

— I’ve always known of the outstanding reputation of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and The Johns Hopkins Hospital. I never intended to get to know Johns Hopkins Medicine so well from the inside but can now personally attest to the stellar care provided by our physicians, nurses and staff.

— I will be doing my best to balance my doctors' insistence on a good, long recovery with my constitutional inability to remain at rest for very long. This will be a challenge.

And finally, there is a third story to share that has made this past month such a trying and difficult one for me and many others. Two weeks ago, I said goodbye to my Admissions colleague and close friend, Jameel Freeman, as he left the Hopkins Admissions Office to a new position at another fine university.  Please understand, in no way do I think the leaving of a colleague carries the same emotional weight as the tragic loss of a precious student, nor is it as concerning as a serious health battle of a new president. It is just that all of these stories occurred during the same period of time, and have tested my emotional well-being and drained my eyes of many tears.

In my ten plus years in Admissions I have had many, many, many colleagues come and go. All of them have impacted me professionally, most in a good way though there have been some that I was glad to part ways with. No exaggeration, I learned more from Jameel in the four years I got to work with him than anyone else I have ever worked with. I consider him a close friend, a mentor, a solid support network, an advisor, and he is even a fan of mine. Saying farewell to Jameel was tough for so many reasons, and I prefer to keep them private. Though a great loss for the Admissions office, we will move on and I know Jameel is in a better place for him.

Thanks for reading this and allowing me to share my thoughts. I'll be back to Admissions topics shortly.