Dr. David Zola was the only man who dared to call a group of college students his family.
Today is September 29, 2018, and I am at a loss for words. Those of you who knew Dr. David Zola know that he is truly irreplaceable. Our family at the College of Education feels broken. We have lost one of our own.
Dr. Zola was the first professor I met from the University of Illinois. In fact, I met him before my admission into the college. When attending a prospective student event at the College of Education, Dr. Zola greeted me with a smile, and I immediately felt at home.
At that same event, I was informed that Dr. Zola taught a James Scholar course counting toward research credit; the course met on Saturday mornings. I laughed at this thought. Who would want to have class on a Saturday?! (I would later take his course four times over.)
For those of you who will not get the chance to meet Dr. Zola, I am first and foremost apologetic. I can only hope that you are able to be as inspired and changed by a college professor as I was. I hope that you find a professor that sees the beauty in all of his students and pushes you to achieve more than you ever dreamed possible. And if you are lucky enough to stumble upon a professor that makes you feel comfortable in your own skin, think critically, and dream to change the world, I only urge you to tell him how extraordinary he is. As I sit here, typing my memories of Dr. Zola, my only regret is not thanking him for being my mentor.
The truth is that Dr. Z lit a fire in us. We were starving for his wisdom; we were always wanting to do better and be better.
I am grateful to have had the chance to learn from Dr.Zola over the past three years. I am grateful for the laughs, the love, and the endless cups of coffee. Because of his skill, experience, and grace, I will be a better teacher. But more than that, because of his genuine kindness, I am a better person.