A gentle, but never weak, soul, Dean Paula Van Riper was a tireless student advocate. She welcomed students warmly and gave them a patient and knowledgeable response, even lightening the mood with gentle teasing. She was that favorite aunt who offered both sympathetic ear and gentle kick in the pants to get you back on the right path, particularly for those students who were struggling or confused. She took great joy in her students. Those of us who worked beside her reveled in her stories and characteristic good humor, maintained even in the face of professional frustrations and personal setbacks. We marvel still at how she never let her challenges affect her work.
Diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma in 1999, Paula Van Riper fought cancer for 16 years, becoming a patient advocate and founding the Central NJ Multiple Myeloma support group. Just as she served students through her career, she served those in the Multiple Myeloma community -- with information, patience, good humor and a sympathetic and caring presence. As a friend shared of her at her memorial service, "Cancer may have killed you, but you never let it beat you." Indeed, as she explained to CureTalk about her reaction to her long battle with cancer: "I find time to laugh and enjoy my co-workers, friends and family each and every day. I truly do not ‘sweat the small stuff’. So much of life’s inconveniences are the small stuff."
Paula was particularly a friend of the SAS Froshblog, and always wrote to acknowledge and celebrate a new post. She took particular joy in our silly colloquial expressions. A recent response that so completely demonstrates Paula's way of being in the world:
"Once again the Frosh Blog is written in a chatty, friendly manner, chocked full of sensible advice. Providing the pros and cons that most students are not knowledgeable enough to be able to articulate and nor should we expect them to do so.
Love the "obvi" - too old to know that current colloqualism. This blog info has a universal message....thinking about how the rest of us can apply it!
Stay warm and I am sure you are pleased it is - TGIF!
Miss you all, Paula"
So, it is on behalf of the thousands of students whose lives you touched and the colleagues and friends who have learned much from your example that we pause to thank you, Paula, for the gift of your love and friendship and service. Our world is sadder and darker for the absence of your light. But as we managed the usual hectic school opening this past week, many of us took solace in doing your work: offering students our best to help them achieve their best.
We hope we've made you proud.
Contributions may be made in Paula's memory to the International Myeloma Foundation, Miracles for Myeloma Central Jersey Fund