Valparaiso professor remembered as a force for good
BY JAMES D. WOLF JR. Post-Tribune correspondent October 14, 2013 5:36PM
Mourners fill the Chapel of the Resurrection at Valparaiso University for the memorial service on Monday for history department chairman Alan Bloom, who died Oct. 9 at age 49. | James D. Wolf Jr./For the Post-Tribune
Updated: November 16, 2013 6:17AM
VALPARAISO — When people remembered Alan Bloom on Monday, they spoke of him as a voice for the disenfranchised, a voice for community improvement and a tireless and engaging conversationalist.
And those in the Chapel of the Resurrection on Monday found it hard to believe his energy and enthusiasm stopped Oct. 9.
Bloom, chairman of the school’s Department of History, died suddenly that day at age 49. The cause is unknown; his widow, associate professor of history Colleen Sequin, said more answers are expected Tuesday.
“He lived his life so completely, so fully,” University President Mark Heckler said, starting Bloom’s memorial. “He seemed to be living his life for all of us.”
Assistant professor of history Heath Carter recalled the trips Bloom organized to Selma, Ala., to visit civil rights sites; Bloom’s favorite Martin Luther King Jr. quote was about leaving the world a better place when you die.
“Alan lived that line,” Carter said.
Even in graduate school at Duke University, Bloom wrote his thesis on the history of homelessness, an interest that began as an undergrad at University of California in Santa Barbara.
At Valparaiso, he served as Habitat for Humanity adviser for 10 years, co-directed the Summer Global Leadership Institute and initiated Summer Start, a summer fun camp for children.
He also coached at the YMCA and Boys and Girls Clubs, co-directed Valpo Reads a Book and served on the mayor’s Human Relations Council.
“Every community needs an Alan Bloom, and we’ve got big shoes to fill,” his friend and fellow community activist Duane Davison said after the memorial,
Bloom first contacted Mayor Jon Costas in 2007 to write about the historic downtown revitalization and within 10 minutes, “I was sold on Alan Bloom,” Costas said.
That gregariousness meant “it was natural for Alan to have a conversation with anyone, anytime, any place,” said Holly Singh of VU’s Office of International Students.
Bloom normally asked the person next to him on the YMCA treadmills for an opinion.
Carter put that gift for gab this way:
“When I first met Alan, we had a problem. When we started talking, we didn’t stop,” he said.
“A conversation with Alan kept you on your toes, but another reason a conversation with Alan was so much fun was because it mattered,” Carter added.
Sequin gave the students a final assignment from Bloom.
“He wants you to reach across the aisle,” she said. “Reach out, don’t pull in.”
Her husband believed other cultures made him sharper and more human, while talking to those with other political beliefs gave his more authenticity.
Teaching was also an act of faith for him, she said.
Senior Elizabeth Gore said she could tell that in his last class Monday.
Although he wasn’t feeling well, he asked the students if he should come in to teach.