Thank you, and goodbye

I am still in China.

This morning, 13h ahead of Illinois, I checked my email before leaving for another part of the country. (Woke up early in Shenyang, spent several hours on a bumpy flight, and am now in Chengdu, under cloudy but bright skies, with probably several hours of daylight remaining.) Immediately, I saw notifications of posts in the several IMSA alumni groups to which I belong. Not reminders of coming reunions… but news of the passing of one of the many remarkable leaders of a remarkable place I had the great fortune to attend.


The picture above was taken four years ago: November 2010. It was Veterans’ Day, and I visited IMSA that day because they had invited a classmate, Ron McKenzie, to give the address.

I didn’t know it until later that day, but when I took this picture, Eric McClaren had already received a diagnosis of ALS, or Lou Gerhig’s disease. It would be a few weeks or months yet before this diagnosis was shared with the IMSA community. I do not recall the first time I met him, but it must have been in the fall of 1986, as I first arrived at IMSA. At that time, he was a resident counselor, but by the time of this picture, he had earned a PhD and was now the principal. He was always a tall, athletic figure, the sort you would never predict to suffer from a dehabilitating disease. But in the past four years, he did so, I think with grace and dignity.

Enough will be written about Eric today, and in the days to come. I know that he was working on a book, and I hope that he was far enough along with it that it will yet be published.

But I want to thank Eric, and what he did to make IMSA what it is today. He is one of many role models in my life, although I’m not sure I realized how much so. But Eric had a drive, a drive to make things better, even when there was a personal cost involved. I can only hope to live up to the standards he set for himself, and challenged others to reach.

One more note: When Eric’s diagnosis became public, the IMSA community pulled together in amazing ways. I once visited him at the Rehabilitation Institute in the city, and there was an alum there who was checking in on him. I heard more stories about alums, no matter where he went, seeing to his medical care and other needs — others will likely share these stories as the news spreads.

But, I am today thankful to be a part of this community, and to have had Eric as an influence in my life.

Here is one remembrance, posted to the IMSA web site:–-june-6-2014


One Response to “Thank you, and goodbye”

  1. butterflydoc Says:

    Reblogged this on Ben U Faculty Abroad and commented:

    There are personal costs to going abroad for a long trip. Sometimes, we miss events that we otherwise would not miss for anything. Sometimes, news arrives that can just about break your heart… the latter happened to me this week…

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