This week, I have eagerly anticipated the daily Cheryl ’77 podcast episodes by UF’s Alisson Clark and Emily Cardinali. Alisson and Emily are on a mission to discover the author and intended recipient of a love note inscribed in the concrete sidewalk just off University Avenue in the courtyard by Matherly Hall on UF’s campus.
IF LOVE COULD BE LIKE TREES,
YOU WOULD BE A FOREST.
Alisson and Emily ask “Who was Cheryl, and who loved her enough to write this message?” So far in this week’s episodes, they have called dozens of Cheryls who were UF students in the 1970s and scoured the archives of The Independent Florida Alligator without luck. Today, on this Valentine’s Day, I’m hoping to learn, with everyone else, the identity of the author and of Cheryl and the story behind the love note.
This week, I have reflected on two other love stories. These stories are about the lives of two important members of our UF community we lost unexpectedly. Tuesday morning, Rabbi David Kaiman led a memorial service at Congregation B'nai Israel for dentistry professor Marc Heft. I knew Marc as former chair of the Faculty Senate and a member of several search committees for UF presidents. Throughout my five years at UF, Marc periodically sent me encouraging notes, which brightened my days.
On Wednesday last week, we celebrated in the Rion Ballroom of the Reitz Student Union the love story of the life of Denise Griffiths. Denise was a College of Liberal Arts and Sciences senior majoring in English. She died of injuries sustained in an accident on University Avenue. Hundreds of friends from the many organizations in which she was involved and her CLAS classmates attended her memorial. Although his daughter had died just a few days before, her father spoke with love and humor about her, and her friends spoke of her impact on them and their organizations. Denise’s love for the written and spoken word were formally acknowledged when CLAS Dean Dave Richardson announced Denise would be awarded posthumously her bachelor’s degree in English.
I hope Cheryl knew about the love note inscribed in the concrete near Matherly Hall and that she knew how much she was appreciated. Words are powerful, particularly in a university community where we are constantly pushing each other to be better with criticism, evaluations and grades. It is good that we have one day a year when we are all reminded to write, speak and live lives of love. I wish for everyone at UF a Valentine’s Day filled with giving and receiving written and spoken words of care and encouragement.