A Flash of Lightning in a Summer Cloud

2012 Eclipse as Seen from Cloudy Portland

The news came via Facebook, of course.

One of my college advisors (the one for my major), Archaeologist Dr. Daniel Edward Shea collapsed while on a summer research trip in Chile, never regained consciousness, and died.

I can’t even begin to imagine the pain his students and staff there with him are experiencing, or the terrible loss to his family back home, his students, his colleagues. I do know some of the grief felt by students who left Beloit and moved on into our lives. It is of course a tremendous, tragic loss.

We all called him Dan. In his upper division classes coffee duty rotated and when it was your turn you made coffee & got up and brought the pot in for everyone. He’d wake me up for my classes when I’d fall asleep in the department lounge. I used to babysit his kids.

Dan let me down a few times and in some big, important ways. Seeing old friends at Jen’s memorial really brought this home to me.

Beloit let me down. I’m still working through the shame, the mantra that repeats in my head, endlessly:

You didn’t finish what you started.

Jen’s memorial made me realize I’m also still working through the anger at knowing that when I really, desperately needed them, my advisors didn’t advise.

All that aside, reflecting on Dan’s influence in my life, I want to acknowledge something very important. When I would get my courage up to sit down in his office and tell him my ideas and theories about Peruvian archaeology, I left those discussions feeling like he listened to me and respected me. Even when he occasionally, and rightly, shot those theories full of holes.

As a woman who’s been working in tech for well over a dozen years, and has gone through phone calls where a man asked me to put another man on the phone, doubting my skills and knowledge merely because I’m a woman, the experience of having my academic opinion respected was hugely beneficial. Hell, college was really my first experience at having my opinion respected or really heard much at all.

Having my advisor really listen to me, well it meant a lot and it still does. It also helps offset some of the anger I’m working through at beingĀ  let down when I needed help.

Clearly ceremonies and observances are called for:

Incense lit and offered to Dan and the Kwan Yin statue in the herb garden.
To the lingering solstice twilight in the west, three bows for Dan.

Metta to those students and faculty with Dan, may you know ease.
Metta to Dan’s family, may you be at peace.
Metta to Dan’s colleagues and students at Beloit, may you be peaceful.
Metta for all Dan’s students who’ve moved on from Beloit, may we all be at ease.

Move on Dan. May your next life also be filled with adventure, learning, and joy. Thank you for the lessons you taught me and for listening.

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One Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Sarah H.
    Jun 22, 2012 @ 09:23:07

    Regarding your experience of a man asking for another man on the phone, I had that very frustrating experience often while working at a University where I worked with international students. They would sometimes ask to speak to my boss, and then upon learning she too was a woman, try to see if there was another decision maker they could talk to who was a man. There wasn’t, she was the top, and I always took a lot of pleasure in explaining that to them. I also now work in tech, and my coworker is also a woman who has worked at the firm a lot longer, so at first people used to ask for her without even giving me a chance to help them. I think if she were a man I would chalk it up to sexism, but I guess in some circumstances people are just weird about their computers. :)

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