It is with a heavy heart that I write of the passing of my friend, colleague, and mentor, Nathaniel I. Córdova, who most of us knew as Nacho. A beloved teacher and gifted scholar, Nacho was an associate professor and chair of rhetoric and media studies at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. In addition to being an academic, Nacho was a skilled photographer (both iPhoneography and more conventional dSLR work), a devoted partner, and a loving father. I’m still pretty shocked to hear this news and remain speechless, so I’ll keep this post fairly brief….
I first met Nacho in 2003, because he was one of the only Puerto Rican scholars in my research area. We started chatting over email in October, and soon met up in person at the National Communication Association convention in Miami that November. From that point on, we talked regularly on the phone (though not as often as either of us wished), met up at NCA, and conversed over the interwebs. Nacho was always so thoughtful (he considered himself a “Zen Humanist,” after all), giving, encouraging, contemplative, balanced, and kind. Just the other day, I was describing him to another friend/colleague and I commented that Nacho was one of the nicest people I have ever met. I think most who knew him would agree. His big smile, joyful laugh, and warming presence were always the highlight of my NCA.
In the past few years, Nacho dealt with a number of deaths, including family, colleagues, and close friends. Nacho, always self-reflexive about his attitudes, blogged about some of these experiences … and I feel his own reflections can offer us some guidance as we mourn his loss. In a November 2006 blog entry, titled “Impermanence Redux,” Nacho wrote about a conversation with a student coping with the loss of another student at the school:
One of my current students stopped by today, sad and crying over our mutual friend that died, and she said that every year she has been at the University somebody close to her has died. I told her that the older she gets the more people she knows will pass away. She said her dad told her the same thing. Yes. I did mention impermanence, interbeing, and grieving, and that no matter what, it just doesn’t seem fair, nor purposeful in-and-of-itself. But… what can she make of it? what can we make of it together? With all the pain, grief, and sadness rolled into it, how can we transform it, add meaning, and compost that suffering for the wellbeing of others? And so we are connected in death, in this endless cycle of being and becoming and hopefully transformation, always not knowing.
I think Nacho would want us to ask the same questions as we grieve his untimely departure — to be grateful for his life and our relationships with him, but also to rework these feelings of pain and loss into something more productive … something that can make ourselves and those around us better in some way.
I will miss you, friend. We will all miss you.
An online memorial for Nacho is up at http://nacho-cordova.blogspot.com/.
(I will update this post with information about services, etc., as I find it out.)
UPDATE #1 (7/17)
The memorial will be Wednesday afternoon (click for more info). The precise details aren’t in place yet, but they should be updated soonish. I think I’m going to try to go….
UPDATE #2 (7/18)
Another/revised article about Nacho in the Statesman Journal.