Back in 1995 at the University of Wisconsin I met a remarkable man named Kevin Robinson. He was at UW on a fellowship to the UW Law School. We hit it off immediately, our mutual love of politics led to a great friendship and hours of spirited debate.
When our paths parted in 1997 we promised to keep in touch. Over the years this became something of a running joke, as we invariably would lose touch and track of each other for two or three years, then one of us would stumble upon the other's contact info and fire off a note or voice message. This would lead to hours on the phone or instant messenger catching up.
Today, I was going through some old emails and found a chat log from my last conversation with Kevin in late 2008. Smiling to myself I thought, "well, it's been two and half years, time to catch up!" Remembering that Kevin was teaching at Bryn Mawr College, I went to the Bryn Mawr website to track down Kevin's email ...
What I found on the Bryn Mawr website was this..
Posted February 12, 2010
The Bryn Mawr College community is struggling to come to terms with the loss of Assistant Professor of Social Work and Social Research Kevin J. Robinson, who died unexpectedly last weekend at the age of 40. The community was notified with an e-mail from President Jane McAuliffe, who described Robinson as a “treasured colleague” whose loss is deeply felt.
Dean Darlyne Bailey of Bryn Mawr’s Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research has announced that the College will host a memorial event to celebrate Robinson’s life and work on Sunday, March 14, from 2 to 4 p.m. in Thomas Great Hall. members of the Robinson family will join the Bryn Mawr community as it remembers him.
A small funeral service for family, friends, and fellowship will be held on Friday, Feb. 19, at 7 p.m. at the Watkins, Garrett and Woods Mortuary, 1011 Augusta Street, Greenville, South Carolina
Robinson’s sunny, gregarious personality and unusual ability to forge meaningful connections with others made him especially well suited to community-based participatory research (CBPR), his preferred method of study. In CBPR, researchers consult members of the populations they propose to study before framing research questions and designing experimental protocols.
“The community drives the research,” Robinson explained in an interview two years ago. “They set the priorities and have an interest in the findings and the dissemination of the findings.”
At the time of his death, Robinson was at work on a project funded by the Centers for Disease Control, in which he partnered with the Philadelphia Health Management Corporation and the The Colours Organization, Inc., a service and advocacy group for LGBT communities of color in Philadelphia.
Its hard to describe the range of emotions I have been feeling this afternoon. Shock, sadness, and yes, intense guilt for allowing too much time to go by before I reached out to an old friend. As I sit here and type this, I can almost hear Kevin say "David Paul... don't get all deep and moody on me!" Yet it's damn hard not to...
What stands out most for me today is the painful truth that in this age of Social Media, "keeping in touch" can't be a matter of Facebook Friends, Twitter Following or Linkedin Connections. It has to be real, it has to be personal and it has to be human.
If you have a friend in your life who you haven't spoken with recently, a wonderful friend who tends to pass in and out of your "real time" life every so often like a comet on an irregular trajectory. Please, take a moment grab that comet by the tail and pull it in for a hug, a phone call, or even just a "hello" over a cup of coffee. Don't allow that friendship to slip out of reach.
My deepest (albeit belated) condolences to all who were blessed to have had Kevin in their lives. I know I was.