Becoming a Rockstar


The day I met Sam, I went home and wrote in my journal, "Just had the most amazing class. Our teacher is sam harmer. I think he's going to change my life."

I just knew it. Some students had already had him for a semester, so I felt a little left out - because everyone was so close. He pulled a couch in from the hallway (lol) and brought every student that he hadn't had last semester up for an interview in front of the whole class. He asked me a question about Star Wars. He called me by my first name. He made me feel welcomed. I felt like I was home in that room. He made me feel valued, important, and smart. He made everyone feel that way. He helped me through my anxiety, depression, and overall exhaustion of being a college student. I looked forward to every class of his because I knew it would involve laughs, learning, and sneaking wine in our Starbucks cups. (Sorry Sam!!!) He made the people in that room family, he brought us under his wing, and he grew with us.

The first day he called us rockstars, I got chills in my whole body. Something about it just stuck. It was the first time I felt confident (and not terrified) about life after graduation. Sam changed my whole world. I think he changed everyone's whole world. In class, we did an exercise to figure out what animal we were. The options were owl, monkey, shark, or koala. We would guess which one we were and then had the class assign us a category. Sam was quick to put me in the shark tank. He said I was bold. I had never felt bold before. That lit a fire inside of me that is still growing.

One day in class, we made a "To-Do List." It was a list of all the things we want to do before we die. He shared his with us. We all started to write ours down. On a piece of paper, I scribbled two of my to-do items: Get a tattoo and breed one litter of golden retrievers. 


The day Sam died, the world lost its light. I was at breakfast and I saw the post on Facebook. I thought it was a joke - because, that's totally something Sam would do. I felt numb and lifeless. My phone kept lighting up with the names of the classmates turned family, no one knowing how to act or what to say. 

His celebration of life was nothing short of a perfectly planned out Sam event. Everything was yellow and Batman and the building smelled of chicken cordon bleu. I haven't cried (or laughed) that hard in my entire life the way I did that night. All of his students sat next to each other, hand in hand, and cried, laughed, and remembered our good friend Sam. 

Sam loved tattoos; he got one just about everywhere he went. I loved that about him. So I knew, when the time was right, I would get my first tattoo in his writing, as a way to simultaneously honor him while crossing an item off the to-do list I had created in his classroom. 

Sam, for you, I will love harder. I will tell everyone how much they mean to me. I'm sorry that I so often leaned on you that I didn't give you the opportunity to lean back on me.

In his final note, he wrote, "I love my BSU peers and students; deep down I feel that teaching was my life's calling. I truly found myself this way. (Hey PR Rockstars, can I ask you to please work together to complete my 'To Do Before I Die List?' I know, I know, that's ironic."

I can't wait to work with the rest of your PR Rockstars to finish your bucket list (which includes getting in a bar fight and dancing with all his daughters at their weddings). Anything for you, Sam.

hannah budke