My friend and colleague Kathy Berggren died suddenly last week, a terrible shock to the Ithaca community. Kathy taught courses in the communication department at Cornell for more than 20 years and recently moved to a management communication position at the Dyson School.
Although Kathy served in this role for only one semester, she already made her mark. She built the program from scratch, creating a practical course to develop students' personal and professional communication skills. From this semester and from her many in the communication department, it's hard to say how many students would call her "mentor."
Perhaps Kathy's greatest contribution was her work with teaching assistants. She mastered the large lecture, which many business and management communication faculty resist, by developing a cadre of students who could teach and coach other students. Her comprehensive guide for teaching assistants should help sustain the course now that she's gone.
One of the many modules Kathy taught exceptionally well was an "elevator pitch." I'm guessing that thousands of students can sell themselves within minutes because of Kathy's guidance.
As a frequent Facebook poster, Kathy might enjoy the outpouring of comments on her page. Friends and family are posting memories and photos for everyone to enjoy. I found out about her death from a mutual friend who texted me about some Facebook posts. And so goes our communication world today.
As a colleague, I'll miss Kathy's forwarded articles, including recommendations for BizCom in the News. I know she found this blog useful as a teaching tool, and I'm glad for that.
As a friend, I'll miss Kathy's direct communication. She set me straight on more than one personal issue I was whining about. I told her that I have many friends who will empathize with me but too few who will tell me what to do when it's clear what must be done.
I regret never seeing Kathy work with students directly. I imagine they benefited from her delicate balance of caring for people regardless of their ability and telling them what they needed to hear. I know I did.