In Memoriam: Remembering Devin, Bill, and Jeff

May we have the grace to see, despite the hurt of rupture, the searing of anger and the empty disappointment, that whoever we have loved, such love can never quench.

— Wess Daniels, William R. Rogers director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies

“May we have the grace to see, despite the hurt of rupture, the searing of anger, and the empty disappointment, that whoever we have loved, such love can never quench.”

Wess Daniels, director of Friends Center, read a part of John O’Donohue’s prayer “For lost friends” on Feb. 1 in Dana Auditorium. This prayer echoes the sentiments on Guilford’s campus this past January.

Sophomore Devin Seaverson, accounting department chair Bill Grubbs and professor of English Jeff Jeske passed away.

Staff, faculty and students gathered in the Moon Room to celebrate and remember the life of Devin Seaverson alongside his family.

The 19-year-old Fuquay-Varina native passed away on Jan. 5 after being involved in a car collision near Kipling, N.C. Due to the many people being away from campus during January term, the College decided to hold the memorial during the first week of classes of the spring semester. Devin’s closest friends and his partner, Cody Crews, surrounded his parents Lori and Jason Seaverson as well as his little brother, Dustin.

Dean of Students Todd Clark followed Daniels representing Guilford College for a statement on the former student. He read an excerpt from Lori Seaverson’s Facebook post about how she would like others to remember Devin.

“Please remember him for where he lived, how he loved,” she wrote. “Put flowers in my yard or some place you’ve shared a happy memory with him. Don’t focus on where he ended. Focus on where he lived and loved.”

For those who did not know Devin, his father wanted to show and remember his bright presence around those he loved.

“From his earliest years, Devin was a bundle of positive energy,” said Jason Seaverson. “He could put the grumpiest person in a good mood just by smiling at them. … He saw everyone as equal, regardless of what everyone thought of him. … He would drop anything to help a friend in need.”

A slideshow with photos of Devin and special tributes from friends in the Physics department and in the Theater department created a peaceful atmosphere in the Moon Room.

The last half hour of the memorial was dedicated to sharing stories and moments with Devin, mostly during his time at Guilford.

Later that same day, in Joseph M. Bryan Jr. Auditorium, the Guilford community gathered to celebrate the life of accounting department chair William “Bill” Grubbs. He passed away on Jan. 15, at the age of 75, at the Hospice Home of High Point.

Garland Granger, associate professor of accounting and close friend to Grubbs, led the memorial.

“(Bill) didn’t know he was sick,” said Granger. “Early January they discovered he had a brain tumor, and by the 15th of January it took his life. It was pretty much painless. (Bill) meant the world to me. He got me into this profession.”

Grubbs’ wife, Jo Ellen Grubbs, reminded the Guilford community that her husband started the department he worked for and had important goals he wanted to achieve.

“Bill was hired by Guilford College in 1967,” she said. “He was hired to build an accounting program. His goal was to build the best accounting department that there was in this area. And, he wanted students to understand and go out and work in accounting, not by memorizing, but (by) understanding the principles.”

Some of Grubbs’ students corroborated the fact that their accounting professor was unique.

“Bill was the kind of person that took a personal interest in you,” said Steve Causey, University of North Carolina at Greensboro graduate who took classes with Grubbs at Guilford. “By the second class, when we raised a hand to ask a question, he’d know our names. That was really surprising.

“I’ve retired this year, and I’ve been in my company for 32 and a half years, and I really appreciated the stuff I learned from him.”

His passing away came as a surprise to most people.

“When I got the email, it took me as a shock,” said CCE senior Pamela Maria. “I remember seeing him in the last day of the semester before and he said, ‘I hope you have a great holiday. I’ll see you next semester.’ … He’s definitely going to be missed.”

From other faculty to students and staff, Grubbs has touched the lives of many, and his care for the department and the classes will never be forgotten.

“The measure of a man or a woman, at the end of your life, is not how much power you’ve mastered,” said Granger. “Or how much fame you have gained. It’s not how many things that you have done in your life, or how many classes you’ve taught.

It is the impact you make on the lives of the people you’ve sat with everyday. And Bill was a giant.”

Another giant that leaves Guilford is Professor of English Jeff Jeske. His memorial was held on Feb. 8 in Dana Auditorium. The space filled quickly with former and current students, his family, close friends as well as faculty and staff.

Campus Ministry Coordinator Frank Massey welcomed the crowd. Between music, a touching video and remarks about Jeske’s life, some individuals rose to share their own personal moments with Jeske.

“I have a deep privilege of knowing Jeff for the last 17 years,” said Professor of English Jim Hood ’79. “Jeff’s most indelible traits (were) his ironic wit, his perseverance in the face of unfortunate odds and the gracious ebullience of his personality, which led him to many lasting, long, beautiful friendships.”

These friendships extended to the entire English department that has always admired and leaned on Jeske during moments of trouble.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” said Associate Professor of English Diya Abdo. “Because (Jeff) is what steadied us, he was our anchor. … I can’t yell across the hall and say ‘Hey, Jeff, I’m dizzy about something.’

I love him, I’ll miss him. Our department has lost its anchor.”

“Something we all have in common is that we’re all students of what Jeff taught us,” said Anthony Harrison ’14. “He headed up a derpy little paper in a school that doesn’t even have a journalism program and yet we won awards.

And just through knowing him, I know that I’ve learned more about myself. He instilled (a) confidence in me that I’m still trying to figure out.”

These three loses may be hard to overcome and only time will heal every wound. But, according to Lori Seaverson, one must hold on to the good moments.

“If you’re having a bad day do something obnoxious,” she said. “You have to. It gets you through. … You know that’s what he would want.”