University honors late Professor Carmen Gillespie

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University honors late Professor Carmen Gillespie

Samuel Miller

Samuel Miller

Samuel Miller

Sebi Herrera and Jess Kaplan

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The University community celebrated the life of Carmen Gillespie, professor of English and Director of the Griot Institute, on Sept. 28. The six hour memorial was organized by Michelle Lauver, Griot Programs Manager, Kelsey Hicks, the director of Women’s resources, and Meenakshi Ponnuswami Professor of English and Gillespie’s dear friend, with help from dining and event services. 

The memorial began with a walking tour of campus locations that were special to Gillespie. The walk began at Bucknell Hall, where Gillespie frequently attended poetry readings. The walk then continued to Seventh Street House, Samek Art Museum, the Weis Center,  Vaughan Literature Building, the Edward Brawley statue, Hildreth-Mirza Hall and the Carnegie Building. In the grove,  Professors Kelly Knox, Dustyn Martincich and Barry Long, from the Departments of Theatre and Dance and Music, choreographed and performed an original piece. Gillespie’s impact on the  Vaughan Literature Building was particularly emphasized as she is the reason why there are the portraits of famous writers and scholars who visited the University on the first floor. Gillespie wanted their visits to be immortalized. 

The walk ended on the uphill side of the Elaine Langone Center where Soul In Motion, an Africa Dance and Drum ensemble performed. 

Guests then headed to the Terrace Room for speeches, readings and performances from Gillespie’s former students, colleagues, friends and family. Gillespie’s family, childhood friends and University administration all shared anecdotes and fond memories about Gillespie. Student speakers Sarah Rosecky ’18, Samantha Stephens ’20 and Emma Alfeld ’20  all read poems written by Gillespie; Sebi Herrara ’21 read a poem he wrote; and Lina Hinh ’19, Sam Lauer ’18 and Katie Cantagallo ’20 all shared memories they had with Gillespie. Professor of English Meenakshi Ponnuswami shared an obituary she wrote. 

“It was a privilege to attend and be part of the memorial gathering, especially to hear from people who knew and loved Professor Gillespie in different areas of her life– her family, friends, students, even her mentors… it was very beautiful to see all her communities come together to say goodbye, but also deeply sad because we miss her very much,” Professor of English, Mai Linh Hong said reflecting upon the ceremony.

Alumni speaker Sarah Rosecky ’18 echoed Hong’s sentiment: “It was a lovely celebration of Carmen’s life. Friends, family, and students gathered together to tell stories and read some of Carmen’s work. Carmen had such an impact on everyone she met, and she will always be missed.

The memorial ended with a candlelight walk from the ELC to Hildreth-Mirza Center where a reception was held. 

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