Thursday, October 23, 2008

Remembering Stephanie . . . .

As a contributing editor to this blog and a colleague of Stephanie, I want to share some personal thoughts and memories of a truly amazing person, legal writing professor, teacher and friend.  First, let me express my heartfelt thanks to my fellow blog editors - Mark, Coleen, Sue and Nancy for so graciously and thoughtfully keeping this blog silent today in honor of Stephanie's memory. 

Stephanie's passing came as a shock to everyone who worked with her at NSU Law School.  Stephanie had waged on ongoing battle with melanoma for several years.  When she was first diagnosed five years ago, the doctors operated and thought they got it all.  Unfortunately, it came back this past spring and the doctors operated once more.  Again, they thought they got it all.   Following the surgery, Stephanie stoically underwent an experimental treatment during late spring and into the summer which the doctors hoped would put the cancer into permament remission.  But after the start of the fall semester, doctors discovered that the melanoma had returned yet again.  Stephanie took a leave of absence from teaching several weeks ago to try another experimental treatment we all hoped would finally put the cancer into permament remission.  Last week she began a series of self-injections to prepare herself for this new regiment of treatment which began yesterday.  It was during her first hospital stay to begin the new treatment that she suddenly stopped breathing and passed away shortly thereafter.  She was only 36.

We are still in shock at this sudden loss of such a brave and loved colleague and friend.  Stephanie was a real pistol - a former prosecutor and a real tough cookie whose laugh carried down the hall and who loved her students more than anything.  During last year's graduation ceremony, more students asked to be hooded by Stephanie than any other member of the faculty, by far.  That tells you a lot right there.

Stephanie was one of the strongest, most determined people I've ever met.  She didn't take crap from anyone.  Yet she was sensitive in all the best ways - kind, thoughtful and considerate of others' feelings.  She was so positive and enthustiastic about life, teaching, her students and her school that it made the rest of us feel like Woody Allen in comparison.

She's a great person and no one can ever take her place.  If you'd like, please share your own thoughts and memories about Stephanie in the comments box below.

While I'm normally the scholarship dude, tonight I'm just very sad and empty.


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We are all deeply saddened by this terrible and sudden loss. Our best wishes to Stephanie's family, friends, students, and colleagues.

Posted by: Mark | Oct 23, 2008 5:50:53 AM

It is a terrible loss, to lose someone so special, being a student of Professor Aleong's was a great and eye opening experience. She was tough and most of all caring, she was the only person I could talk to, during my tough 1L year, and she always brought a smile to my face. I will miss her dearly, as she was truly one of a kind. Best wishes to her friends and family.

Posted by: Justin | Oct 23, 2008 6:04:20 AM

It is hard to believe she is gone. We shall all miss her so much as a friend and colleague. I reviewed her Criminal Law class in October, 2006. This was my conclusion:
"Professor Aleong is an exceptionally talented teacher. She handled the class like a first-rate symphony conductor conducts an orchestra. It was a pleasure to watch. We are very fortunate to have her here at NSU."

Posted by: Marilyn B. Cane | Oct 23, 2008 6:07:54 AM

Stephanie's loss will be felt by so many. She reached out to me when my daughter was diagnosed with melanoma and I so enjoyed her stories and encouragement. I am just heartbroken by her passing. Rest in peace dear Stephanie.

Posted by: Nancy | Oct 23, 2008 6:26:08 AM

Stephanie had a great heart and the world will miss her-

Posted by: sara | Oct 23, 2008 6:41:13 AM

I must have been out of my mind, I thought, jabbing at the Pepsi machine because it wouldn’t release my soda. I was so enthralled in thought of personal despair as I pecked at the machine that I didn’t noticing the person standing behind me.
“Are you alright?” she asked, engaging me.
“Yea,” I replied. “I’m just rethinking my decision to enter law school. I mean, I’ve given up so much: my freedom; spending time with those I love; my business; for what, to allow myself to be subjected to constant pressure, frustration, and to be perverse, these high-priced sodas.” But the ramblings of my tormented mind didn’t stop there; I unloaded on her.
Seeing that I had sufficiently bored the poor women speechless, I took a deep breath and shut up. She warmly smiled, chuckled a bit and said in a kind reassuring tone, “It’ll get better real soon. It takes some time getting used to and the years will go by fast. You enjoy the ride and make sure you hang in there and don’t quit. I remember when I started law school; I had some of the same concern…” To my surprise she unloaded on me. “…As for your relationships, my husband thought that he was going to lose me. You make sure that you reassure your loved ones. Every now and again, you surprise them with a gift, flowers or just spend quality time with them; they’ll appreciate it. As for the soda’s, there’s nothing I can’t do about that.”
“It’s obvious, I’m a 1L. What year are you,” I asked.
“Oh you think I’m a student do you? I’m Professor Aleong and I teach…” I didn’t hear a word after that because my foot, so deep in my mouth, clogged my ears. I had mistaken her, because of her height and youthful appearance, to be section 6’er getting a quick bite to eat before class. “But, thanks for making me feel young again. I’ll see you around.” With that, she walked up the west stairs, in retrospect, symbolic of her recent ascend to heaven. At our parting, I was certain I would see her again, maybe even enroll in some of her classes, never once considering the possibility it would be our first and last encounter.
As I type, I’m emotional, and other 1L’s may agree, thus far this has been a journey unlike anything imaginable; in a word, life changing. Being barraged by hundreds of cases, briefs, and never ending deadlines, not to mention, work obligations, family duties and other commitments can be taxing. But the point of this short ode to Professor Aleong is this. For that brief moment – a millisecond in the continuum of time – she was my angel; dispatched at that particular time, in that particular place, for a particular person; me.
Considering it metaphysically, we all are angels of sort and I encourage each of you, as Professor Aleong lifted my spirits that day, so lift someone else’s. Say a genuinely kind word, it might not change that poor grade or wipe away the sting of a professor’s tongue lashing, but it will go a long way in realizing that although law school’s a worthy aspiration – it’s not that important compared to life. It’s real easy to become engrossed with the work of law school, but you help someone “enjoy the ride.” Who know, it may be the last thing they remember about you.
In remembrance of Professor Aleong…my angel.

Posted by: Elvis Brazil | Oct 23, 2008 9:17:26 PM

I didn't know Stephanie personally, however, I had 'met' her via email because she graciously allowed me to use a LRW assignment she had posted on the Idea Bank. She provided wonderful guidance to me and I will think of her daily, as I continue to use the same fact pattern this semester. I will have a moment of silence for her tomorrow in my class.

My thoughts and prayers are with Stephani's family and friends.

Posted by: Kelly Mickelson | Oct 24, 2008 3:09:18 PM

It has been a week since Prof Aleong passed and I miss her even more today than I did a week ago. The more time passes, the more we realize how much she meant to us, how much we relied on her and how big a part of our lives she was. Calling her passing a great loss just doesn't seem to capture what we all feel without her presence.

Posted by: PastStudent | Oct 29, 2008 6:46:28 PM

Every morning when I arrive and every evening when I leave, I see Stephanie's photo in the lobby. I simply can't comprehend that we won't see her again. It still doesn't seem entirely real to me - like I half expect to run into her again rounding a corner in the hall.

We all miss you so much Steph.

Posted by: Jim | Nov 2, 2008 9:10:23 PM

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