By Mark Prestopnik, Assistant Director of Online Teaching and Learning, Duquesne University
We honor the memory of Lynn Hertrick Leavitt (1965-2017) who taught part-time for 11 ½ years in the Duquesne University MS in Leadership Studies.
Lynn Hertrick Leavitt was a strong and kind-hearted woman. I first met Lynn when I was working in the School of Leadership and Professional Advancement many years ago. In my role, I helped to on-board faculty and acclimate them to our processes and standards, as well as connect faculty with the resources and services that the University offered.
Lynn was enthusiastic and eager from the start. Her work-ethic was apparent. She wasn’t afraid to ask questions and to give a great deal of energy to her adjunct teaching for Duquesne. Even though Lynn had several other professional responsibilities, she always carved out time to provide more than enough attention to the courses she was teaching for Duquesne.
Lynn was proud of teaching for Duquesne. She really believed in the University, its mission, and the education of adult and professional students. She participated in retreats with the Center for Teaching Excellence, and was always seeking to further enhance her teaching and mentoring abilities. She made it a point to travel from Virginia multiple times to celebrate with her students at commencement. She was as much a part of the team as other faculty who lived in the immediate Pittsburgh area.
Even though it was outside of the realm of her responsibilities, Lynn constantly sought to promote Duquesne and its online leadership programs. She would relate stories about being at conferences and events and espousing the value of these degrees to those whom she sensed would benefit from them. If there was something that our administrative team would ask of the faculty, she would be one of the first to offer her hand and time, and to share ideas on how we could make things work more effectively.
On a personal level, Lynn was very kind and thoughtful. She always took the time to ask how I was doing, to encourage me professionally, and to reconnect if it had been several months since our last conversation. I could tell that she also had a similar impact when interacting with and motivating her students. She was authentic, and simply put, she cared. Even though most of our interaction was through phone or email, it was clear the type of person who Lynn was, and the positive impact that she had upon others.
The lesson that I’d like to impart to others inside academia, the lesson that I will take with me from knowing Lynn, is to put your heart into your work and your interactions. Take time to care about people on a genuine level. Look for ways that your interaction with others can make them better off, and in turn leave you more fulfilled knowing that you helped them. Get to know people, understand what matters to them, and you will find that this allows for a greater range of possibilities in your teaching and mentoring. It’s not always about knowing the right answer, or knowing the ideal solution to a problem. Sometimes it’s just listening a little bit more, and putting in that extra effort that can make the difference.