Bob Cole, founder of TCNJ’s journalism program
Robert C. Cole, my friend and mentor, died on August 4.
I say Bob “died” because he would have wanted it written that way. “He didn’t ‘pass away’ or ‘go to his maker,’” Cole once explained to my journalism class. “The motherf**ker died.”
To this day, every journalist who ever suffered under me as their editor knows to use “died” in their writing. And none of them has ever met Bob.
At his heart, Bob was a caring man with a love of journalism, a tendency toward meandering storytelling, an insatiable desire to teach, and a vocabulary that would make a longshoreman blush. He spoke with a West Virginian drawl, the kind of accent that suggested a simple view of the world, though only fools would take that as simplicity of intelligence. He was a character, loud and cluttered—his office was appropriately nightmarish—but he never tilted toward caricature. He knew his work. He shared his experience.
Bob taught journalism more as a trade than as a profession. But the skills he taught—and drilled—were transferable to every medium in which I’ve managed: newspapers, online, television, magazines. I came out of my years at the college prepared to succeed.
I also came out with a friend. Bob never left me. As a young police reporter, I made the mistake of using the term “innocent bystander” in a story. That prompted a phone call: “Have you ever met a guilty f**king bystander?” I should have known better.
I also should have appreciated those calls more. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that Bob probably was the only person alive to read every word I had ever put to page. It wasn’t enough to teach me for four years. He had to honor my work with his thoughts and feedback. He continued to teach me, long after my college stopped cashing my tuition checks.
—Ray Hennessey ’94
The author is editorial director of Entrepreneur.com. This is adapted from his article “What the Death of My Teacher and Friend Taught me About Mentorship.”
Patrick Donohue, retired assistant provost for community engaged learning programs and partnerships
During my freshman year, I emailed Pat to ask how I could connect the college’s Habitat for Humanity chapter with TCNJ’s Bonner Community Scholars. Sensing my interest in social justice issues, he invited me to visit and experience the Bonner program, a group of students he led in developing and facilitating community-based programming for the region. I knew immediately Bonner was the perfect fit for me and joined.
Pat quickly became a mentor and friend, inviting me to help with many projects: running service learning trips for thousands of TCNJ students, or teaching citizenship classes for immigrants in Trenton, for example. His faith in me led me to contribute more than 2,000 hours of community service at TCNJ.
But Pat’s greatest influence was motivating me to motivate others. He gave me the opportunity to become a voice for community service, which allowed me to strengthen my abilities as a leader. This summer, I worked for a multinational NGO, Conservation International, in La Paz, Bolivia, providing community-based programming on sustainable development and climate change. I wouldn’t be doing this type of work without Pat’s influence.
I will work to carry on Pat’s legacy of providing opportunities for better livelihoods and social justice for all. And I’ll be forever grateful for the confidence and abilities he fostered in me.
—Shaun Field ’13
The author recently earned a master’s in climate & society from Columbia University.