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FAVORITE PROFESSOR’S DEATH IS A REMINDER TO SEIZE THE DAY - CARPE DIEM!

By ELIZABETH

After an invigorating run in the bright afternoon sunshine, I checked the fitness app on my phone to confirm that I had reached four miles. I was energized for a meeting with a client about a book as I walked up my driveway, drenched in sweat.

Oddly, a sudden urge to check email revealed a message from Columbia University:

“Memorial Service for David Klatell.”

I froze in my tracks.

And burst into tears.

My favorite professor is dead!

David Klatell had been my Broadcast News professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. 

Now, the shock of his death struck a raw chord inside me because he was a kind, comforting and uplifting person during an extremely difficult time. 

Just 10 days into the intensive program in New York City, my father died in Detroit.  I went home for the funeral, then returned to school, grieving while participating in Professor Klatell’s TV Workshop and other classes on writing, reporting, ethics, and more.

After graduation, I kept in touch with Professor Klatell via email, sharing news about my latest books and most recently, my TV show, MI Healthy Mind.  He always responded with notes like this:

I am very happy for you and proud of your success.  Those billboards are rockin’.

I also visited him when I was in New York, and was honored that he proudly displayed my books on his office shelves.  The last time I saw him, in February of 2013, we enjoyed a wonderful visit in his sunny office, painted a vibrant robin’s egg blue, on the top floor of The Journalism School. 

We reminisced about his Broadcast News Workshop that required us students to disperse across the city with video cameras, sound equipment, and tripods, to cover stories and reconvene to produce weekly, 30-minute newscasts showcasing our video news reports. 

They included the United Nations Security Council meetings during the Persian Gulf War, where we reported alongside CNN and the BBC.  We attended Mayor David Dinkins’ press conferences at City Hall.  And for every story, we lugged heavy equipment up and down the subway stairs, through the snow, onto buses, and into obscure but interesting nooks and crannies all across the city.

Back in class, Professor Klatell would impart his Boston-native wisdom with his super witty, hilarious, and brilliant expertise and experience.  His instruction produced many success stories from my class, including CNN Anchor Suzanne Malveaux, NBC Correspondents Jeff Rossen and Jonathan Dienst, and Keith Brown, Senior Vice President of Programming at HLN at CNN.

Now Professor Klatell is gone!

The idea that I could not share future career accomplishments with him triggered another wave of tears.  I also thought of his beautiful young grandchildren, grown children and wife who will miss him terribly.

In recent years, he was enjoying a global adventure as Chair of International Studies for Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism.  He traveled to other continents, establishing outposts for The Journalism School for students around the world.  He also beamed with pride while talking about his wife, their grown children, their weddings, spouses and babies.  Check out the email he sent a few years ago:

I am in the Amsterdam airport, en route to Barcelona.  All is well:  we have a new grandson… and new son-in-law...  

Life is good.

Best, DK

Just this summer, he connected me with a delightful young graduate who aspired to host a TV show, and thought I’d make a good mentor for her.  He wrote:

In many ways she reminds me of you: very upbeat - and optimistic, with a strong interest in interviews and blogposts about popular culture and mindfulness.

I would later learn that David Klatell died on August 11, 2016 of pancreatic cancer just days after being diagnosed.  He was 68. 

Everyone is going to die, but it’s shocking when death strikes people who were seemingly healthy and living life to the fullest.

Therein lies the silver lining.  

It made me stop crying.

And feel peace.

My professor’s life was an exquisite lesson on using your gifts to help others while celebrating family, friends and the next generation.

And David Klatell’s death was a reminder to savor every second of life, because it can end in a shocking blink.

As for all those things I haven’t achieved yet, that I feared he wouldn’t see?

“Now you have another Angel in heaven,” said my dear friend, who also knew David at Columbia.

Yes, another Angel, along with my father, who is thanking David Klatell for comforting me, teaching me, and encouraging me as a student and beyond.

So now, as the joyous pursuit of success usurps sadness, let’s all strive to echo my beloved professor’s simple declaration:

Life is good.  

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© 2016 Two Sisters Writing & Publishing

 

WritingCatherine Greenspan