Aquinas College is a family, and losing a family member is hard. Recently, the Aquinas community has lost three members: Brent Chesley, Lendell Hoard and Gary Karasinski.
Dr. Brent Chesley was a Professor of English who was part of AQ faculty since 1987. Dr. Chesley taught 17th- and 18th- Century British Literature, Nonfiction Writing, Revising and Editing Your Own Prose, and Inquiry and Expression. He passed away on Nov. 22 and students and faculty gathered on Nov. 30 at Bukowski to remember his life.
Dr. Chesley’s classes were by far my favorite classes to take at Aquinas. He didn’t just stand and lecture at us for an hour – instead he made sure we interacted with our classmates by sharing our writing with one another and helping each other improve and grow. As aspiring writers, it’s important to get comfortable with sharing our pieces and giving/receiving critiques and praise, and Dr. Chesley made it a priority to teach us this through setting up these sharing circles where we would all go around the circle and focus on one person’s writing piece by sharing our favorite part about it, and one way they could improve on it. These sharing circles helped me grow in more ways than I could explain.
He was so much more than a professor, he was a mentor and friend to each of his students. I remember one time he scheduled appointments with all the students in our class so he could get to know us on a personal level and get into our heads about where we want to go in our writing careers – that way he could further help us in moving forward as writers, and be aware of any opportunities that may pop up that he could share with certain students based on their aspirations. I was so amazed by that – there aren’t many professors willing to go to such lengths for their students, but that was Dr. Chesley, always.-Nadija Kadunić, AQ Alumnus ’16He always made his students feel special. Every one of us felt valued by him. You could see it in the way he started class, calling us “Persons of Quality.” He cared about his students and their futures, he continued to work with students even after they graduated.He always told me to “go have adventures” each time I’d leave his office after working on my independent study project. I pursued that advice, and continue it to this day. His words are always echoing in my head.-Rachael Steil, AQ Alumnus ’15 and author of Running in Silence: My Drive for Perfection and the Eating Disorder That Fed ItBrent was truly sui generis, one of a kind, his own type. I have known him for 25 years as a kind, witty, insightful colleague and fellow denizen of the third floor of Holmdene. Brent threw himself into the teaching of writing, and he developed a real specialty in creative non-fiction. He was instrumental in designing and implementing our English Major with a Writing Emphasis which we inaugurated last fall and has proven a huge success in attracting students. Brent was an original in every way. He was a true “person of quality” and developed a special relationship with many students who will carry his memory forever in their hearts.-Professor Gary Eberle, Chairperson Aquinas College English Department
Alumnus Lendell Hoard graduated from Aquinas in 1995. While at Aquinas, he was highly involved. Hoard was a member of Student Senate and played intramural sports. He was well known for his laughter and deep conversations. The impact Hoard left on his peers was so immense, that fellow Class of 1995 alumni are organizing the Lendell K. Hoard Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship will begin benefitting students once the goal of $20,000 is met. Hoard passed away on Christmas Eve morning.
I’m not sure if I was searching, but whether I was or not Lendell Hoard helped me place myself in the world. We are too young to be losing the friends of our youth, and Lendell should have been the last to go, rather than one of the first. The core years of our friendship consisted of the highest highs and the lowest lows, and nothing comforted me more than stopping by Robinson Rd. to hang out with Lendell in an unheated front living room. I know he had 200 friends more important than me to his journey, but he ranks far higher on my wall than that. His gift was an ability to go deep or be shallow depending upon the circumstances, and make every day together seem like a new adventure, even when doing the same old thing. I’ve missed him for many years, and I will miss him for many, many more.
– Andrew Pieper, AQ Alumnus ’98
Few people laughed like Lendell. Few people made me laugh like Lendell. I’ve never known anyone like him, and never will. I always considered him a kind of philosopher-comedian, a wise soul, and I loved my time living close with that spirit.
– John Serba, AQ Alumnus ’96
Gary Karasinski was the Director of Student Support Services since 2008. Karasinski also served as an advisor to incoming students who were unsure about their majors. He passed away on Jan. 5, and a memorial visitation was held on Jan. 12 in Bukowski to celebrate his life. Contributions were made in his name to the Louis and Florence Hogan Burns Scholarship which benefits first-year students.
Gary was the real deal. He genuinely cared about students, and he had an intense loyalty to his staff. To say that he will be missed is an exceptional understatement. Our hearts are broken, but we are carrying on Gary’s mission. He would want everyone to recognize their God-given Strengths and to use those Strengths to make the world a better place. He was first a teacher and a coach. He always reminded us of the importance of getting back to the basics (he called this “stance and first step” from his football coaching days) and of doing our job as best we can in each moment. Gary played his part well, and we are still in the game. He’d want us to play passionately to the end.
– Student Support Services
I’m reflecting today on my gratitude for Gary Karasinski, my very first administrator. As the principal of Wyoming Rogers High School, Gary hired me for my first English teaching job. He supported me while I worked as a fledgling teacher of at-risk students next to a noisy shop class at Rogers, and then as a professor of English at Aquinas College (where, years later, I was blessed to have him as a colleague). I think often of the many (!!!) mistakes I made during those early years of teaching. I now marvel at Gary’s graciousness and encouragement throughout it all. He knew how to provide thought-provoking feedback that strengthened my pedagogy and he was a tireless advocate for students and teachers alike. Gary was an exemplary administrator, a person of integrity who demanded quality, kindness, and respect in all of his dealings, and I am so grateful to have known him. May we strive to be more like him. And may he rest in peace and rise in glory.
– Dr. Gretchen Rumohr-Voskuil, Director of Inquiry and Expression Program