Some Words for My Friend Dan
UPDATE: Good news, a memorial fund has been established in Dan’s name! Here are details from Dan’s brother Bruce:
In memory of Dan Schackman’s commitment to supporting the public presentation and review of our students’ work, and to honor his teaching, scholarship, and service, The Daniel Schackman Memorial Fund for Students has been established by the Department of Communication and Media at SUNY New Paltz. The purpose of this fund will be to defray the expenses of students studying within our Department who wish to present their academic work at a conference or submit their creative work for review or evaluation by a recognized organization.
To contribute, please address your gift to the SUNY New Paltz Foundation, 1 Hawk Drive, New Paltz, New York, 12561, or go to http://www.newpaltz.edu/gift. Be sure to specify The Daniel Schackman Memorial Fund for Students.
My friend Dan Schackman passed away a couple of weeks ago. I can’t believe he’s gone, and I haven’t accepted that I’ll never hear his voice again, that we’ll never get to co-write a paper together, that he’ll never get to see me finally graduate with my PhD, that we’ll never get to see each other grow old.
I met him about 10 years ago while working for CTCNet, a nonprofit focused on community technology and digital divide issues. He was there to serve as an AmeriCorps *VISTA member, and since I had also served a few years as a VISTA I took him under my wing to show him around and help him feel welcome. I’ll never forget a few months later when I was laid off, in shock and feeling like the office leper, Dan brought me to the park near our office and shared that he too had been laid off before and gave me advice on how to cope. At that moment I said to him, in my own brand of high-class vernacular, “You know, I’ve always wanted a PhD and it won’t go away. This is God kicking me in the ass to go back for my PhD. Fuck it, what am I waiting for?” Dan was quiet. I didn’t know at the time that he had been bitten by the PhD bug too and may have been having similar thoughts. He later went to Syracuse University and graduated with his PhD. I edited his dissertation and he helped edit my dissertation proposal. Dan was so supportive of me and my journey. Whenever I had yet another Twitter or Facebook status bemoaning the latest PhD struggle, Dan was always there with a smile, joke, or helpful comment. That feed feels so oddly quiet now without him there.
Our ladders of success and survival nudge us to move and change and grow whether we want to or not. Our families become people we see perhaps a few times a year if we are lucky, and our family of friends, the people we may see in person day-to-day when our schedules collide or when our paths cross virtually on Facebook and the like, become so important. Since Dan’s passing I’ve been reaching out to other old friends, burying ridiculously old hatchets from too many years ago over things that, in retrospect, pale in comparison to not being involved in some small capacity in their life. Time is so precious and I don’t want to miss a minute more. Because Dan was something of a walking IMDb database, I like to think he might be chuckling at me having a ‘Big Chill‘ moment right now on his behalf.
Thank you Dan for being my friend, for throwing the greatest Oscar parties and for somehow getting everyone to dance to All That Jazz every time Chicago won yet another Oscar, for being a great cat-sitter, for introducing me to a book group of friends that I still hang out with nearly 10 years later, for being my Mad Men buddy and especially the Mad Men Suitcase episode and agreeing that it was one of the best hours on television and sharing that sense that maybe if we didn’t live in the same zip code anymore, at least we were not alone together. I miss you.