I taught with Dick Ek for four years at Chico State in the 1980s, where he was a senior professor and I was as junior a professor as a junior could be. We both came from strong journalism practitioner backgrounds and so had a lot in common.
We were never really close, Dick was too much of a curmudgeon for me. And I was too busy advising the campus newspaper, The Orion, and trying to figure out university politics enough to get a tenured professor's slot.
But Dick was a big help at those times when The Orion, would put its foot into it - which it did with amazing frequency. He once came into my office after the newspaper had skewered then-university president Robin Wilson for, oh, probably the fourth or fifth week in a row. He offered that if the newspaper kept giving Wilson hell, that I would not be much of a candidate for tenure - or even getting a position leading to tenure.
I still remember the look on his face when I told him that after my 10 years in the newspaper business - where tenure is basically two-weeks-severance pay and a kick in the ass - the rumblings of university presidents really didn't scare me.
Dick played a lot of tennis and stayed in good physical shape most of his life. I heard from a friend that his health was slipping and that might have been a contributing factor to what happened.
Whatever the case, thousands of journalism students across the U.S. owe Richard Ek a debt of gratitude for holding their feet to the fire in various journalism classes.
And I'll lift a glass to him tonight, wishing him Godspeed to some tennis match in heaven. With luck, he's already there, beating the snot out of former Chico State unversity president Robin Wilson with drives to the baseline.