The world lost a caring teacher and humanitarian yesterday, when my high school classmate, Jim Nowak, died in Kenya, where he spent five months each year volunteering his time. He was hit head-on in a traffic accident on his way back from a visit to an orphanage.
A retired teacher in the Rochester, NY area, Jim believed that undeveloped nations badly needed education. To that end he had been building schools in Kenya for many years. His byword was local sustainability, so he not only lived in the communities he helped, but also used local vendors and workers. Smart.
Jim was president of my high school graduating class in East Irondequoit, NY and captain of the football team. He graduated from Cornell University. While the common definition of “success” usually means a big corporate job making big money, Jim’s definition was quite different.
As a teacher, he was much beloved, inspiring students to give the world their very best, something he, himself epitomized. As a humanitarian, his influence was wide-reaching, from western NY all the way to Africa.
I had a chance to catch up with Jim by phone in 2009 and was impressed with all he had achieved. I admired the fact that he was his own man, with his own very powerful life mission.
There is no making sense out of this kind of tragic death, except to believe that his work here on earth was done and he was wanted for bigger things.
The world will miss him.
I dedicate the blog post below to Jim Nowak, a genuine person who epitomized “Be Who You Are.”
Godspeed, Jim. And lala salama (sleep with peace in Kiswahili).