A true sense of community

March 8, 2012 —

Last Friday morning I was about 15 miles into my 35-mile commute to DMU when my cell phone rang. The caller ID showed me it was someone here at the University. I answered the phone and right away knew something was not right. The caller asked me where I was, what I was doing, had anyone called me yet this morning, and could I pull my car over for a minute so we could talk. I answered her questions and pulled my car off at the closest exit.

The caller proceeded to tell me that her department had just been informed of the passing of Sally Wallin, a longtime DMU employee. My heart sank, my head became fuzzy, and I just knew that this couldn’t be right. I’m having a bad dream, I thought, even though I knew subconsciously that it had to be true. I felt numb. I thanked her for calling, hung up and drove, through tears, the rest of the way to DMU.

Sally was the first person I became friends with when I started at DMU almost six years ago. I was a bit intimidated by the powerhouse group of ladies I met; they kept their departments running, they were all older and more experienced than I was, and they had worked here for a combined time of well over 60 years. Sally made me feel comfortable, answered all my dumb questions, and encouraged me each time something negative stood in my way. She was my biggest supporter when I made the decision to apply for my current position.

But I was not special; I was no exception. That was just how Sally was. She loved her family, she loved her friends and she loved DMU.

After I heard the news Friday, I wanted to turn my car around, go home and crawl back in bed. But I didn’t. And once I stepped foot on campus, I knew I had made the right decision. As corny as it sounds, I felt like I was being enveloped in a giant invisible hug. DMU is a busy place, but on Friday I felt as if time had stopped. Students, faculty and staff all took time out of their day to comfort me and each other over the loss of Sally. Students asked what they could do to help and offered shoulders to those faculty members whom they so often lean on. Faculty and staff juggled their schedules to help out where needed and to cover for those who needed time to grieve. Sally would have done the same for them.

Today I am sad for Sally’s family as well as for the loss of my friend. However, I will not soon forget the sense of love and compassion I felt, and continue to feel, from everyone here at DMU. My job may be community relations, but to me, the real definition of ‘community’ is all the little ways each of you responded to the loss of one of our DMU family members. You have reinforced my pride in the University!

Finally, although it’s completely out of my comfort zone, I will wear fuchsia today and tomorrow – who knows, maybe all week, because it was Sally’s favorite color and because it would make her smile. She will be missed.


With a love for all things 80’s and an obsession for organizing, Melissa Wilder prefers to spend her time away from DMU scrapbooking, being outside, hanging out with her family, or reading a good book. Although on some winter days she dreads her 30 minute commute, she still looks forward to coming in and working with the exceptional people of DMU.

The university’s community relations manager, Melissa spends her days scheduling and organizing events, responding to requests, and looking for opportunities that help DMU’s students and employees ‘give back’ to the great city of Des Moines.

Comments

  • Laurie Spain

    Melissa,

    I am sorry for your loss and though I did not know Sally I want to extend my condolences to all. My son is a 1st year sutdent in the osteopathic program and I too can attest to the sense of community at DMU. He fractured his leg earlier this year. Had he been at any other medical school I’m not sure if he would have been able to continue his studies. Everyone at the DMU has been so accomidating with him through his recovery. Besides the great education DMU had to offer this sense of community is one of the reasons my son chose DMU. He felt it the 1st time he visited. Keep up the good work supporting eachother and sometimes the smallest jesture can mean so much to another.

  • niru

    It is very sad. I had meetings with her that day & day before.
    She was then, as always, happy to help, smiling and caring person she always has been.
    I will miss her. My prayers are for her departed soul and for family and friends.The 10th floor will not be the same for a long time!

  • Vicko

    Melissa that was so nice of you. I still can’t believe it is true, I was suppose to talk Lexy to school but Sally told me she would. I wish i could hear her voice and see that smile. I have her and Jerry’s picture on my fridge. Thanks again for the wonderful words. Take care Vicko

  • Phyllis

    Thank you, Melissa. I couldn’t have said it better. We lost a true friend. Thankfully we have a whole community here at DMU who loved her and together we will be able to go on with life, as she would want us to.

  • Mary Krohn

    Dear Melissa,
    I am truly sorry for you loss of a dear friend. It gives me comfort that the DMU is such a caring facility. My daughter Christine Mariano will be entering the Podiatry program in August 2012. I have been very sad that she is moving so far away from my. We live in PA and we are very close. It make me feel much better that she is going to a close knit school where everyone is so concerned for eachother. Like family. Christine has been lucky to attend schools all her life that were family oriented and small. I came with her last December for her interview and I knew as soon as she came back from the interview that she felt comfortable and welcomed to join the DMU community.
    Thank you,
    Mary Krohn

  • Annette

    Thank you Melissa for speaking for so many employee’s here @ DMU… It is so hard to believe that Sally’s daily impact on her friends here @ DMU was so relevant, 23years @ the same company when you are 44 years old is almost unheard of in this day & age! Sally’s memory will live on in so many ways within the DMU Community. She will forever be a mom, wife, friend, DMU employee and I too will never look @ “fusia/pink” without “wearing it for Sally”!

  • Debbie B

    You have such a gift with words – saying all the things I have been feeling in my heart in just a few paragraphs. Thank you for sharing ‘our’ feelings so that others might know the beauty that was our friend, Sally.