A few minutes ago I learned of the passing of one of the greatest mentors I have ever had the fortune to know and work with: Dr. Heidi Hosey-McGurk.
I first met Heidi the trimester I transferred to Mercyhurst when I was enrolled in her Postmodernism class. Her humor, intelligence, and compassion as a professor spoke to me, and I so admired her that I ended up taking at least one class with her every single trimester until I graduated. She introduced me to the fascinating area of literary criticism and theory, even trusting me enough to write my final paper for that course about her dissertation. I was so honored that she granted me the privilege of reading that incredible piece of work. I so admired Heidi that when my advisor went on sabbatical, I begged Heidi to be my advisor, and she's the one who shepherded me through graduate school applications and preparations. She also directed my senior thesis about Victorian women's writing. Her depth and breadth of knowledge drew all of us to the literature in a way that made it real for us, made the authors' lives seem not wholly unlike our own, made us want to know more. Her gift for unpacking a piece of literature, for teasing out meaning was truly an awesome feat to behold.
And she was so talented at finding those lesser known texts, at introducing us to pieces of literature that we wouldn't have encountered otherwise. I remember reading The Story of Avis, The Morgensterns, and so many other wonderful texts that we never would have encountered on our own.
She also had a gift for assigning pieces of literature that spoke directly to each one of us. In The English Novel she purposefully assigned each of us a particular text rather than allowing us to pick our own, although I think she did ask us to list our top three choices to help her decide. I also remember that she told me that I wasn't allowed to have any of my top three choices because she wanted me to read Ivanhoe, which I was less than thrilled about, but will concede, after all this time, that she made the right call.
Heidi pushed us to think not as mere undergraduates but as fellow meaning-makers. It's because of her that I was more than prepared for graduate school, that I was confident when I went up for tenure, that I knew I was a good professor because I modeled so much of my teaching philosophy after the things that she taught us.
Later, as I completed my MA and PhD, I checked in with Heidi every now and again and was thrilled when she was promoted through the ranks of administration. Heidi was an amazing professor. I kept all of my notes and books from the courses she taught, and they informed the kind of professor that I was. And her work as a professor made her an amazing administrator because she understood the larger picture, the needs of the entirety of the school, although I am sorry for all those students who could have sat and basked in the gloriousness of one of her classes.
When I made the decision to leave academia, Heidi was one of the first people I contacted once I returned to Erie. I remember sitting at the bookstore at Mercyhurst over coffee with her and talking. Heidi was an amazing listener. I remember she told me that it was alright to change my mind about my career but to be careful because being a former professor with a PhD meant that I was a prime candidate for being sucked back into academia, even if it was just a bit of cajoling to take on a class or two as an adjunct. However, she was incredibly supportive, and I was so proud the day I was able to tell her that I opened the store.
So today I mourn one of the greatest role models, most supportive advocates, most amazing professor and mentor I have ever been honored to know.
My deepest sympathies go to her wife, Dr. Joanne Hosey-McGurk, and their family and loved ones.