I was shocked to open my inbox and find that Zenobia Hikes had died during the night. She was only 53.
She died of complications following multiple heart surgeries.
As vice-president for student affairs at Virginia Tech, she helped shepherd the university through the days following the campus massacre on 16 April 2007.
She was a member of the group of Tech executives known as the policy group that gathered on the morning of April 16 2007 to deal with the shooting deaths of two students in a dormitory. As they were meeting, gunman Seung-Hui Cho entered a nearby hall and killed another 30 victims.
Of course, I never met her but, like millions of others, I watched her on television at the convocation held the following day. Her warmth, courage, and compassion helped rally the spirits of grieving students. And seemed to give some meaning to the madness that had happened.
Ed Spencer, interim vice-president, says, "I remember walking over to the convocation on April 17 and realizing how remarkably calm and reassuring she was, knowing what she was about to say as the moderator of ceremonies for the convocation, and we all know what an incredible job she really did for that."
And John Gray Williams, a student, remembers this: I'll never forget how inspired she made me feel when, only days after I'd met her back during my first semester here at Tech, I passed her on the Drillfield and she called out to me by name, "Oh, hello, John Gray." Really!? Did a vice president of this university of 30,000 really just remember my name? But that's how she was. If you took the time to seek her out and talk to her about any sort of student issues, she took the time to remember your name -- and the issue. She took the concerns I (and others) brought to her to heart.
Another student, Mohawk-John Woods, writes in his Live Journal, "This won't matter much to most of you non-Hokies [Virginia Tech folk], but it matters to us. Zenobia Hikes was one of the few administrators I still felt I could trust after the shooting -- and I suspect that to be true for others, too. She always worked so hard for us, and always listened."
I meant to write a blog post about her one day -- under the rubric Zenobia's Hall of Fame (21st C. AD) [sadly, I noted this morning that the link has stopped working].
I never imagined it would be a R.I.P.
But I can tell you, John Woods, her death does matter to most of us. As you said, Zenobia Hikes, you are sorely missed.
More information on this vibrant woman at In Memoriam: Dr. Zenobia Lawrence Hikes
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