Remembering Nick

It was with great sadness that I learned this week of Nick’s passing. He fought a courageous fight, and, as usual, set an example for all of us — one more lesson from our Master Teacher, added to the many countless he’s given us over the course of our lives.

My fondest memories of Nick are three.

First, I remember him reading Conrad to us in British literature. Literally reading it, out loud, word for word, so we could bask in the richness of the language and the depth of the story. Nick essentially taught me how to read, and I still read this way. Just a few years ago, I was re-reading Moby Dick, in of all places a coffee shop in Seoul, and I caught the hairs on my neck standing on end, so immersive and eerie was the scene. I thought of Nick at this moment.

Second is the tale of my first ever story, written with such ego and confidence, not for publication but for what I was sure (in my own mind) was the beginning of the greatest high school journalism career the school has ever known. The paper came back with red ink on every line and a big D on the top. I had misspelled a few names and Nick circled each in red pen and lopped off a whole grade for each one. In the margins were the first of many journalistic lessons, “Names make news!” The broader lesson, also due to Nick, was how to learn, how to be humble and, eventually, how to write.

Last memory,  something very dear to me that few know about. Just a few years ago, in SF, Kathryn Pallakoff and I had the chance to speak at a JEA panel with Nick on the impact and lessons of the Hazlewood ruling, and its impact on high school journalists since then. As many of you do know, Kathryn and the rest of us on staff got caught up in that controversy, and it proved what we always knew about Nick — he was a champion of students’ voices, and the champion of us. He let us speak for ourselves, he let us learn a bit about the world on our own, and he supported us with his advice, and, most importantly, with his belief in us as people. Years later, we got to share a stage with Nick and watch him distill these lessons for a generation of students 20 years younger than us. To teach alongside him, the Master Teacher, was such special moment, and yet another gift from him to me.

So, Nick, farewell. You are gone from here but certainly not forgotten, and certainly not dead. It is cliche to say that you live on each of us, and I’m sure you’d circle this in your red pen if you had a chance, and that you’d push us to find a better and fresher way to say this. But, for that, we will need some time; we are still reeling from the sad news.

Until then, thank you. More gratitude than I can possibly express for the way you shaped and influenced my life. Thank you, and goodbye, and hopefully we will meet again, much further down the road.

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