Grief Grips the Newsroom
[X]Press magazine writer dies Saturday
October 5, 2004 12:35 PM
Already struggling with feelings of pain and loss due to the deaths of two students and a faculty member, SF State journalism students fell silent once again Monday morning at the news of a third tragedy.
Shawn Kelley, 22, a senior journalism major and staff writer for [X]Press Magazine, died early Saturday morning.
Kelley was a graduate of Milpitas High School and a transfer student from De Anza Community College.
The announcement was received by a clearly shell-shocked group of student writers and photographers who, in the last six months, had already endured the loss of recent alumnus Adam Brodsky, student Stacey Doukas and Professor Torri Minton. The death of another student clearly weighed heavily on many in the room.
A visibly emotional [X]Press Magazine Managing Editor Michelle Griesgraber struggled Monday to deliver the bad news to fellow [X]Press staff members and left in tears after making the initial announcement. Those in the room were rendered speechless. One of Kelley’s friends began slowly shaking his head as he stared blankly at the ground. He then raised his hand.
“We were supposed to go to a baseball game last Wednesday but I couldn’t make it,” said SF State senior, Kota Morikawa. "He looked so healthy the last time I saw him."
Shawn Patrick Kelley was born February 4, 1982 and attended Milpitas High School where he played forward for the Trojans soccer team. His father is a baseball coach in Milpitas and coached Shawn, who was a big Oakland A’s fan, up until high school.
“Family and friends were the most important thing for him,” said Morikawa.
After graduating, Kelley stayed close to home attending De Anza Community College where he earned an associated degree and wrote two articles for the student paper. The first article was an opinion piece focusing on the vast ethnic and cultural diversity of the student body at De Anza, and how much Kelley appreciated the experience of learning from them. The article seems like a fitting representation of a number of common themes in his life, including kindness, courtesy and hard work.
“Everything about him was so genuine,” said Michelle Griesgraber, the co-managing editor for the [X]Press Magazine. “When he would raise his hand I would literally scoot forward in my seat and cut anyone off who was talking… because it was probably the most profound thing that was said in the last hour.”
Griesgraber said that when she needed a top-notch writer, she always knew where to turn.
“Shawn was our rock star,” said Griesgraber. “ He gave it all for the guts and glory in a story.”
Griesgraber and co-managing editor Katy Anderson worked with Kelley late into the night last Friday revising what would be his last story- a profile of Sacramento Rivercat minor league baseball star Dan Johnson and his dreams of making the major leagues.
“He spent so much time and effort on that story and wanted it to be perfect,” Griesgraber said.
Yvonne Daley, [X]Press Magazine’s senior advisor and associate professor of journalism, said Kelley fought hard to maintain the continuity of his original story after Johnson was recently called up to Oakland Athletics.
“It was typical Shawn,” said Daley. “He was being very polite and considerate but defending every word of his story. It was his baby, so he was protective of it.”
Being a huge sports fan and consummate professional, Daley said Kelley, “was like a kid in a candy store,” when covering the Rivercat player.
Sara Wolfram was the photographer paired with Kelley for the baseball article. She said that Kelley was initially a bit star-struck by the Rivercat team, but quickly adjusted.
“He was standing frozen by the dugout, in this nice black dress shirt he wore because he really wanted to make a good impression,” Wolfram said. “He eventually loosened up and mentioned at the end how much of a thrill it was.”
Reacting to the news of his death, Wolfram echoed feelings of shock and sadness felt throughout the journalism department. Emotions that have become eerily familiar this semester.
“He had goals, dreams and things he wanted to work out in his head,” said Wolfram. “It just doesn’t make sense.”
Michael Chu met Kelley and Morikawa (Kota) in a reporting class taught by Torri Minton last fall. Minton died this summer of cancer and Chu recalled how all three students were shaken by the news of her death.
“Me, Kota and Shawn were all shocked when we talked the first day of fall class about Torri,” Chu said. “Now it’s just me and Kota talking about Shawn.”
Almost uniformly remembered as a polite, intelligent and unshakably positive spirit, Kelley will not soon be forgotten.
“I never once heard him say a negative thing,” said Chu. “He was hands down the nicest guy I have ever met in my life.”
As of Monday, the cause of death has still not been released. Services for Kelley will be private and his family has set up a Web blog to give mourners a forum to tell stories, gives thanks and express their sorrow over the loss of the dynamic student. Also, staff from SF State’s Counseling and Psychological Services department made another appearance with the journalism department this Wednesday to discuss issues of stress and grieving. Their services are free for all students, as part of the cost of tuition.
The predetermined theme for the upcoming edition of [X]Press Magazine will be “hope” and “despair” and will memorialize and include Kelley’s final article.
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