Rose Economou: The Great Journey Begins

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It was last year, right around this time, that I went to Rose’s office to talk to her about going on the J-term trip to Europe. I had never met her before. I heard about the trip from Norma Green, who was my professor at the time, and was eager to get my name on the list.

The first thing I noticed upon entering Rose’s office were the photos on the door. I can see them now. Past Paris trips, J-term with Bill Kurtis and Walter Jacobson, and other students whose lives she touched. A real projection of what she valued: her students and their success and happiness. That door always struck me as a window into the woman who sat behind it.

The second thing I noticed were those glasses. Big, red, loud. Like Rose herself, the glasses spoke of a woman unafraid of judgment. Who made a statement. Who wanted to see everything as clearly as possible.

Rose was warm and inclusive at our first meeting. She made me excited about the trip, and I committed my time and money to it. The trip itself was remarkable. Our class went to NATO, met with spokespeople from the European Union, and sat in on a trial at the International Criminal Court.  Her global connections were stunning, although perhaps even more amazing was the way she carried herself throughout our trip. Despite numerous health issues, she attended almost every event that the students did. By cab, by boat, or by simply walking down the streets of Paris with her cane, she accompanied us and enriched our experience, and I cannot fathom the strength that must have taken.

The last time I saw Rose, I was coming back up to the orange journalism hallway after an impromptu fire drill interrupted a film screening I was attending. Arriving back upstairs, she was the first person I encountered, sitting right in front of the door to the newsroom. She had the trademark Rose Economou smirk on her face as she said to my friend and I:

“It was you two who pulled the alarm, wasn’t it?”

I had to physically sit down when I found out she died. The void she left will be felt both here at Columbia and by her colleagues abroad. She was a remarkable woman who had the courage to ask the hard questions. Her life is inspiring and I hope her spirit will live on in the good work and honest actions of her students.