Web Extra: A Poem for Catherine Gira

Kendra Kopelke, associate professor in the Klein Family School of Communication Design, wrote the following poem.  A tribute to her longtime friend Dr. Gira, it was a special part of the memorial service held at UB in May. 

Used with permission.

There Was No One Like Her
for Catherine Gira (1932-2019)

There was no one like her.
No no no no one.
Was there. Not one.
No one anywhere we know
was like her.
We know because we have looked and lived and now must sit together on the 8th day of May
with this newly assembled absence among us
and what to make of this sound.
What can we make of the sound
of her gone with all of us here but her.
Who described the world and told us
what it meant and it calmed us.
What can we make of this sound
but listen.
She taught many students.
She taught students how to teach themselves.
She taught them how to read Homer and Dante
and in reading how to think.
And in thinking how to grow.
And in growing how to live.
She had a way of teaching Rosemary and John
and Kimberly and Jo that taught them
how to go a bright new way.
Can we live with more intelligence, please.
She did that so well and she laughed a lot too
at her own stories of her beloved Meb Turner. When he came back to UB after a weekend
at his beach house full of ideas
she would take that Monday off
knowing that by Tuesday
life would return
to normal. She loved her own solutions.
She loved mavericks and eccentrics
and impossible people especially
which is part of what made her
Not merely a model but a muse.
A muse and a model. A mentor and a monarch of mentoring to many.

Don Mulcahey team teaching a classics class
with Catherine.
Without that class he is not
the Don Mulcahey he cares about.
Jon Shorr knows that. Steve Matanle knows that. Peter Fitz. Wayne Markert. Neil Kleinman. Fred Guy. A cadre of admirers.
To try to grasp all she did for everyone
would be impossible madness.
That way madness lies.
And she was not impossible.
She made impossible things possible.
She made business and law and liberal arts faculty go away together and spend the night
discussing King Lear.
She made them think
that there was no other way to develop
as a school but to think about King Lear
and then bunk together for the night.
(She made Meb Turner think he was president. Betty Little made her think she was provost.)
She made universities that might not work so well work so well. She made two universities work, helping them imagine themselves more daringly and not desperately
as they might have done without her.
She made a remote university rise above
its remoteness.
She made a working-class university
classy. She was a woman for all seasons,
a consummate quester who
put her iron fist in her velvet glove
and then said,
Let’s have lunch at the Hopkins club.
She was not impossible but she was possibly
like no one else we know or will ever know.
Her handwritten notes at just the right moment.
Her generous praise.
Our famous friend who treated us like family.

Who made us believe
that without us
she would not be someone she
wanted to be.
All of us here (and not here)
form her perfect university.
Her husband Joe, her thriving children and grandchildren, her friends, students and colleagues.
The sound of her missing is the sound of us remembering. Is the sound of us loving.
Is the song of us singing.

Kendra Kopelke

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *