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Water Ripple

In Memoriam


Dr. Jennifer Bender


To say the news of Dr. Jennifer (Whalen) Bender’s unexpected death shocked me would be an understatement. It guts me that she is gone and seems unreal that she will not be there to cheer me on at my dissertation defense, or see me get hooded in the coming years. 
I met Jen in the summer of 2018 when I responded to a post in “Communication Graduate Students Connect” on Facebook. She was looking for a Skype writing buddy to help her focus on her dissertation writing and I was desperately looking for something to keep me accountable during the summer months while in coursework. Little did I know that message would change the course of my graduate life. 
We spent the summer Skyping and in no time at all, Jen moved from a writing buddy, to a colleague, to a friend, and ultimately, a confidante. When she graduated with her PhD from the University of South Florida in 2019, that could have been the end of our collaborations as she accepted a tenure-track position at Tuskegee University. Luckily, it was not and we continued to meet up online whenever our schedules would allow it. We’d chat with each other about teaching, our research projects, and our personal lives before settling into writing. 
Over the years, our online writing session expanded to include our friends and graduate colleagues. Jen was always the first with an encouraging word and quick to tell us that what we had to say in academia mattered. She will not only be deeply missed by our little writing group, but by all who knew her. As a friend said, Jen was a “burst of light.” She illuminated our field with her passionate scholarship, as well as her love of teaching. She was devoted to her students and never stopped working on their behalf. 
Jen had a tremendous impact on my life, and I know she did the same in many others. Our thoughts go out to her husband Kyle and the rest of her family. Her memory is a blessing to us all.

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