Remembering Gayle Dubowski at NIU Campus Ministry

Written by  Chris Zillman -- DeKalb, Illinois Saturday, 16 February 2008 08:32

Gayle was one of the students who died in the tragic shooting at Northern Illinois University on February 14, 2008. Her campus minister writes a tribute to her life.

There is no way to sum up a beloved's life in any concise, literary way. It is not easy to reconcile the death of someone like Gayle Dubowski with her willingness to serve others and her childlike joy. It is, in fact, painful to try.

Gayle was awkwardly welcomed into our campus ministry on a late summer morning with ten of us crowded into her shamefully small dorm room. Those first few hours consisted of us getting in the way and smiling uncomfortably as her parents unpacked their daughter's belongings. They knew she would never live at home again as a permanent resident, but more as a seasonal visitor. One thing was certainly apparent that morning, her parents loved her and she loved them.

During the next year and a half her father Joe would visit us and express with mock dismay Gayle's growing independence. Privately he beamed at his daughter who had befriended everyone in our church and realized how cherished a personality she had become to us all. Being a poor college student, she hand-knit presents for many of her friends. They wore them proudly. My wife referred to her as "short stack," not alone for her love of breakfast but more on account of her deprivation of height.

Gayle was at my house often and liked to do our dishes. I often joked that perhaps she would make a good addition to our family on that account. My two young boys loved Gayle as she was easily persuaded into worlds of make-believe and fantasy. She and I also argued on occasion surrounding the issue of her bike. She loved riding it and frequently arrived by such transport. She often left at a late hour and I insisted she not ride her bike home. When my polite insistence failed, I moved to outright confiscation and she was forced to accept a car ride home with grumpy indignity. Most of her treks to our home were one way, and that bike resides in our garage to this day.

Last week Gayle came running up to me with a book in her hands. The title of the book was "First Century". It was an interesting piece that endeavored to cover the state of the world during the 1st century A.D. She was excited because the book covered the impact of Jesus, the apostle Paul, and the early church in general. Gayle was so proud that the central figure of her beliefs was central to the story of that century.

Gayle loved what she believed. She loved it so much that she was compelled to deny her shy demeanor and share her faith frequently. It was not uncommon to drive by the campus and see her talking to some person she had just met and with whom she was sharing her faith. It was also not uncommon to see her impish frustration at the indifference so many possessed at her invitation to further dialogue, to come to church, or to our campus Bible discussions. Yet, she was always ready with a quick smile as she gathered herself once more for another go into the cold audience of academia.

The Chicago Church of Christ and the NIU campus ministry loved Gayle Dubowski. It will be a long time before we've accepted her as gone.

Today, a young man from NIU named Anthony was baptized into Christ. As one saint departed, another has been born. Gayle would be honored to know that her life played a role on such a day.

Chris Zillman

Campus Minister, Northern Illinois University

Chicago Church of Christ

NIU Campus Ministry Mourns Gayle Dubowski February 15, 2008

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