Below is my eulogy for Rowan University public relations major Colette Bleistine. I am honored and humble that Nancee and George Bleistine asked that I speak at Colette’s funeral. [To comment: firstname.lastname@example.org]
Where do I start? Like all of you, I am heart broken and devastated – and have been for weeks. I am an optimist and continue to be – because our Colette is in a better place.
So…where do I start? How about at the beginning? My memory of meeting Colette is as vivid as if it were yesterday. As is my routine, I started that particular day going to my mailbox near our Advisement Coordinator’s office. There – like so many other students before and after her – was this beautiful, blonde, young lady with a contagious smile. Esther Mummert quickly told me we had a Star in our midst – a New Jersey Stars Scholar … to be exact. I soon discovered, I was in the presence of a super star.
With a firm handshake, the new student told me she was Colette Bleistine and was excited to be transferring into Rowan’s outstanding Public Relations program. My immediate thought: I was looking at a “TastyKake” [PAUSE] … All the good things wrapped up in one.
Naturally, I told her … I’m available for anything she might need. And … as is the norm, Esther asked if I would take Colette on … as her academic advisor. I told her I would be honored.
During our first discussion, we discovered we had something in common. Colette graduated from Washington Township High School and I, too, am an alumnus – of sorts. I was once public information director and told her I took blame for that darn high school building being as BIG as it is. As I chuckled, Collette flashed that incredible smile … that so often lit up every room she entered.
As we were selecting courses – Colette told me about her challenges and gave me an education about Cystic Fibrosis. As I quickly learned, she expected NO special treatment. I assured her we were all here for her and … whenever she needed treatments or had a doctor’s appointment …not to worry.
Let me take a moment to tell you something you already know. When it came to responsibility, Colette set the benchmark.
In one of my classes – Impact of Public Relations on the News – an intense, rigorous course … reserved only for the best… Colette had – shall I say – a bad couple of weeks – not once, but twice. BUT…and this is key…every assignment was completed on time … and both of her oral presentations were as good as any … ever. These were her grades for the 14 assignments we had in that class: Five A- minuses, Six A’s and … a rarity in my classes …YES, three A+’s. Can you imagine? … a final average of 94-point-eight …second best in the class by only one point … Can you imagine?
Not long ago, actress Sigourney Weaver was interviewed on “CBS Sunday Morning.” She was asked if she had advice for aspiring young performers … and Sigourney Weaver offered advice to everyone looking for that first job. Paraphrasing, she said, not only is it important that the icing on the cake or the package on the product be appealing and sizzling, but once you get below the icing or open the package, it should remind you of a fine steak. Our Colette was both … the sizzle and the steak.
I once asked Rowan’s former president, Dr. Donald Farish if there were anything that kept him awake at night and without hesitation he said, “The passing of a student.” He reminded me, students are our surrogate children. How right he is.
Using the words of my long-time friend and now colleague Professor David Hackney, “Colette certainly touched a lot of people at Rowan through her classes and her extracurricular work.
“She made such a difference in the world in her short life. She would have made an even greater difference had she been granted the gift of time.”
Just two weeks ago, Colette’s inspiration and enthusiasm were evident as she planned the PRSSA Graduation Dinner from her hospital bed. I got e-mails from her almost every day … and sometimes several a day … as she dotted every I and crossed every T. The dinner was flawless.
Back in 2002, PRSSA included among its TonyS, the Outstanding Student Awards, a “Most Courageous Student.” I know we all agree, this year, that Award goes to Colette.
Last night at the viewing we heard two words over and over that best described this extraordinary young woman – inspirational and exceptional. And, let’s add – totally amazing.
As her mother Nancee says: “She used all of her challenges to make the world better. G-d sent her into this world to be a light for him.”
Might I go so far as to say, G-d gave us all Colette to be the light for us. Quite a legacy.
For my wife Nancy and me … Colette will forever be … a Blessed memory.
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