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Words from Libby Plowman

Please forgive me if this is longwinded. But my time with Wayne was always
filled to the brim with words! And oh, I could say so much more.

Wayne was my graduate advisor, my number one supporter, my mentor; but most
of all, a friend. The first time I met Wayne, it took about 5 emails to get
ahold of him. He cheerfully told me that it was lucky I learned early on
that it was difficult to get in touch with him. I didn't take it personally
once I saw his schedule. We began talking and realized that our mothers
worked together at NorthRidge in New Hope. Soon enough, we were talking
about St. Therese and all of his old stomping grounds. It was an instant
connection. But even then I didn't realize how lucky I was to be his
research assistant.

During my first year of graduate school, I would come to Wayne's office for
our weekly meetings. I was doing data entry for a study he completed over a
decade ago (and boy were we both excited when I finally finished!). I swear
the only reason he needed me is because he didn't want to enter data into a
PC! When we met, he would be sitting in his chair in front of his Mac, of
course. He would lean back in his chair, propping his neck with his folded
hands, and casually ask me how it was going. I, of course, assumed he was
asking about my research progress. After all, that is what professors want
to hear about, or so I thought. As I started speaking, he would gently
interrupt me, reach his hand out over the table, and repeat himself - "no, I
mean how is it going?" He was talking about life. He reminded me to take
time to reflect, and always knew when I needed it most. Looking back, he
probably knew me better than anyone else at school that first year. I felt
so safe and secure around him; he helped me develop my "academic voice" and
taught me how to stop doubting myself. But most of all, he had faith in me.
Unwavering, unabashed, faith. He was the type of teacher who helped me
answer the big questions myself rather than answering them for me.

During these weekly "therapy sessions", as we jokingly called them, Wayne
would often share memories of his own graduate experience with me. He
fondly recalled how one of his professors would always tell students they
were the next "greats" of family science. For example, "you are the next
Reuben Hill! David Olson! Pauline Boss!" All Minnesota greats, of course. He
told me this story to show me that I was a student being formed and taught
in the footsteps of these great leaders in family science. That the future
had no limits. Wayne, I will forever "fill-in-the-blank" with your name -
you are one of the "greats" and I wish I had the chance to tell you that. I
feel honored to have spent such time with you. You constantly reminded me,
by example and through words, why what we do is important. When I struggled,
you shared with me your sense of purpose. When I celebrated, you were
cheering me on with laughter and applause! And you challenged me. It wasn't
always just fun and games. We weren't afraid to be honest with each other,
and that meant that we sometimes disagreed. But one thing we did agree on
was that we loved that about our relationship. I think Wayne respected me
because I didn't just give in and agree with him - even when he was right
and I knew it! But in retrospect, it just showed how safe I felt with him,
to throw out anything and get feedback. How I wish I had written every word
down!

I know Wayne is somewhere looking down on us, just fuming that his death was
so untimely. I feel so comforted thinking of it how Pam described during
memory sharing - that Wayne is off exploring his new world - so true! But he
would be so frustrated about the unfinished work he had left to complete,
the people he left behind - that's how he was, always concerned about
others. I remember the first time I came to the Caregiving Center. It was
then I realized that he was equally important to others as he was to me. It
will never cease to amaze me how one person could be so much to so many. But
I suppose that is what is so wonderful about the life of a teacher - his
purpose and energy will go on and on through all of the lives that he
touched. None of our work will go unfinished, Wayne!

To Chris: I, as so many others already have, want to remind you that you
were Wayne's pride and joy. How often he told me stories of you and your
adventures during your first year of college. Never was his face so animated
and bright as when he spoke of you! He was so proud to be your father. To
Ruth, Pam, and all of Wayne's family: I feel lucky to have shared in this
wonderful man's life. Thank you for sharing him with us.

Libby Plowman