It is with heavy hearts that we share news of our colleague, Charlotte Hyde.
Last Friday, April 26, Charlotte passed away while recovering from a significant medical event.
Charlotte was admitted to the hospital on December 12, 2018 following a major stroke and two aneurysms. She was home with family in Texas when the emergency occurred. As her mother, Patricia Ray, shared on the GoFundMe page established to assist with medical expenses, “That night they gave her a 5% chance of survival but she is fighting”; by early January, Charlotte was “up to 50% chance according to the doctors,” and she had “raised her arm, opened her eyes a little and squeezed hands.”
In the weeks that followed, Charlotte’s family secured long term care for her, ensuring that she had the physical therapy and medical care she needed. Progress was slow, as Charlotte’s body tried to recover from the impact of the stroke and aneurysms. Even though communication with others was limited, Charlotte still showed her family, through small gestures, that she was aware of their love, their support, and their sense of humor.
Charlotte’s family will celebrate her life with a visitation tomorrow (Wednesday, May 1) and a service on Thursday (May 2) in Grapevine, Texas. Since we cannot join in person, we offer here some recognition of Charlotte’s contributions to the department, her students, and her field.
Charlotte had just finished her dissertation on “Silent Dissent: The Effect of Structural Secrecy on Professional Communication at NASA” at Purdue University when she joined the Department of English here at Kansas State in August 2016 as Assistant Professor in Professional and Technical Writing. From our first experience of her innovative research project during the search process and campus visit, we were excited to have Charlotte join the faculty to help us and our students understand how professional communications of the past could help us create better models for the future. Her research project – moving from the archives of NASA to the labs and workplace collaborations of the future – was exciting and original. It also earned her two internal grants from the university as well as opportunities to share her preliminary results in key professional venues.
As if research on NASA wasn’t enough to capture the attention of colleagues and students, Charlotte was also pursuing a related project on Lego Serious Play. As Charlotte explained in one of her contributions to the blog Not Your Mother’s Gamer, “I’m becoming more and more interested in how LEGO Serious Play works to both improve inclusion and give students space to think through various aspects of their projects. One of my hopes is that working to make sure each student is heard might help them realize how different technologies might affect others.” For teams of students or workplace colleagues, Charlotte wrote, “LEGO Serious Play methodology is an iterative, inclusive process to help groups find solutions to problems, both abstract and more concrete problems.” Charlotte incorporated these strategies into the professional writing classes she regularly taught, introducing students in ENGL 415 “Written Communication for Engineers,” ENGL 417 “Written Communication for the Workplace,” and ENGL 516 “Written Communication for the Sciences” to new ways of collaboration and communication.
For Charlotte, Legos offered pedagogical inspiration and workplace solutions – and a beloved hobby. It was Charlotte’s love for Legos that inspired some of her students to hold a “Legos for Charlotte” event this spring. It’s Charlotte’s love of Legos – as well as her intellectual curiosity and her empathy for others – that will keep her with us in the years to come.
Below are some further reflections on Charlotte, offered by one of her faculty mentors and by three graduate students who worked with Charlotte during the Fall 2018 semester in ENGL 755 “Rhetoric and User Experience,” a special topic course that she designed –
In addition to being a LEGO fan, Charlotte was a voracious reader. She subscribed to horror book clubs and was working on a novel of her own. She could talk horror lit and the fantastic for a long time and gave me some insights into the genres as a whole.
Charlotte and her mom drove up to Nebraska to have a clear view of the solar eclipse, which she said was the most spiritual and transformative experience she had in her life. She was already making plans to see the next one.
Her love of her students was palpable in her classroom. She provided active learning opportunities with Lego play that I am sure will remain with students forever. She embedded opportunities for her students to reflect on the way they communicate processes, but also on the ways they work with others in a group. These pedagogical innovations have influenced her colleagues and graduate students.
Charlotte gave underrepresented students opportunities to help her research and inquiry by involving them in her NASA project over the summer. This provided students with financial support as well as opportunities to delve into areas of inquiry they would not otherwise engage.
Charlotte was smart, funny, kind, passionate, and eager to succeed. I’m sad we never got to eat fried chicken in Abilene, like we planned.
I miss her.
– Tanya Gonzalez, Professor
Charlotte was one of my first professors at K-State. In a new city where I knew no one outside of the program, I thought I was lucky to find a fellow DFW native. It’s a small comfort to find someone who knows the landscape of your home. That small comfort grew exponentially as Charlotte continued to guide and inspire me in that first semester filled with Imposter Syndrome and exhaustion. I carry her words with me everyday. She taught me so much, but the lessons I hold closest are: 1) It takes strength and bravery to rest. Don’t be afraid to admit you need it, and 2) It’s refreshing to meet someone in grad school who can admit they don’t understand every scholarly thing they encounter. Be that person. I will forever remember Charlotte’s kindness and laughter, and I am so thankful for the opportunity to have had her as a teacher.
– Mikayla Sharpless (MA ’20)
Charlotte was a godsend of a person and a professor to meet during my first semester of graduate school. I only knew her one semester, but in that semester I got just as much support from her as teachers I have known for years. She was genuinely interested in all that we were studying (even if it had nothing to do with the class), but more importantly genuinely interested in how we were doing just as people. I remember I would walk into class and she would ask, “How are ya doin?” and I would give her a nod and just say “Yup” and she would nod back and say, “Sounds ‘bout right” and I knew somehow were always on the same page.
The last time I was in her class, we (Lauren, Mikayla, and I) sat on the floor of her new office, an office that she was so excited for, and talked about what we were doing going forward and outside was a tree that would bloom in the spring. I remember she really looked forward to being able to read and look out at that tree and maybe build some Legos. I remember thinking in that moment that I wanted to be like her and have her simple pleasures and make my future students feel at home as she did.
Even in the one semester I knew her, she had a lasting impact. I hope she knows that every Lego set I build from now on will be dedicated to her.
– Lexi Bedell (MA ’20)
Although Charlotte was one of the most talented and brilliant women I have had the pleasure of working with, few people may recognize how kind and loving she was. Even though I did not meet Charlotte until my second year of graduate school, I cannot stress enough that my life is truly richer for having her as a mentor and a friend.
When I first asked Charlotte if she would want to be on my committee, I remember her excitedly smiling and teasingly asking me, “You want me?” In turn, I responded by assuring her that I was more than happy to be “her problem” if she was willing to take me. Charlotte taught me many things as my instructor and as a member of my committee. One of the most important things she taught our class was how to extend grace to ourselves as budding scholars.
As the fall semester was drawing to a close I remember that many of us were disappointed with how far from the mark our final class projects had fallen. At the time many of us felt like failures, I was not an exception. I remember how when I started to apologize to her for failing she firmly but gently cut me off and told me she was proud of our class and me. I was floored. In my mind all I could think about was how I had failed to meet the goals I assured her I was going to meet. She recognized that I was having an existential moment and in her typically candid style she explained that academia is often filled with minor and major failures but that we should not let that scare us. She reminded us that we have to give ourselves the grace to fail before we can achieve our goals.
I will always be thankful for the time we have had together and although there are many things I wish I could tell her, I am not a fan of saying farewell, so instead I will say a hui hou (“until we meet again”) for now. Thank you for everything, Charlotte.
– Lauren Callihan (MA ’19)
During the next weeks, the English Department will be identifying some additional ways to recognize Charlotte’s contributions. We will post an update here, as those plans take shape. In the meantime, we send our sympathies and support to Charlotte’s family, colleagues, and friends.
— Karin Westman, Department Head