Friday, March 11, 2011

Dr. Lawrence Sipe, R.I.P.

Today has been a sad day in many respects. The crisis in Japan is weighing heavily on my mind. You really cannot take a single moment of your life --or the lives of your loved ones-- for granted. Then, this evening, that message was acutely reinforced when I learned that my adviser at school passed away today. Dr. Lawrence Sipe was not only my adviser, but my favorite professor at UPenn. He was the first professor I contacted when I was thinking of applying to UPenn. I took his class, Picturebooks and the Practice of Literacy, in my second semester and I'm currently taking his Young Adult Fiction class. I can't believe I won't see him in class next week!

Last Summer, I was often in his office, arranging the picturebooks on the shelves and talking to him about Caribbean children's literature. He was so interested in Caribbean children's books and I often showed him books I was reading. I still have the packet of pretty origami paper he gave me when I was tidying his desk that Summer. He was a reader of my blog and expressed a lot of interest when I told him I had started Anansesem.

Dr. Sipe's areas of expertise lay in children's and young adult literature, early childhood education and emergent literacy. He was an avid reader of children's and young adult books and dedicated his life to studying the ways children develop literary understanding as they talk about and respond to books. He has certainly inspired me on a professional level. I don't think he even knew how much I valued him being my adviser.

Dr. Sipe was also such an amiable little man. He always had a smile and a compliment ready for you. He was quite a character in the School of Education and in class often made us laugh because of the witty, off-the-wall or sarcastic things he would say. GSE students often talked about his children's and young adult literature classes as being the "fun" classes offered at the School. It still hasn't fully registered to me that he is gone. I know many of us at school will be mourning his death and sharing memories of him in the upcoming days.

I am once again reminded to be thankful to God for life. I have to trust that despite the painful things that happen, there is always reason to be hopeful and much to celebrate in life. My thoughts and prayers are with Dr. Sipe's family and with the people of Japan.