Thursday, November 01, 2012

Friend and colleague Nick Trujillo passes away

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - I first saw this afternoon on Facebook that my friend and colleague Nick Trujillo had passed away.

Someone had posted a picture of him, saying he would be missed and for just a moment, I thought he had retired.

My conversations with Nick for the last few years - before I left California State University, Sacramento - were about retiring and all the things both of us wanted to do. He had created a musical alter-ego (Gory Bateson) and performed a lot of great music all over the world. We even chatted about doing a couple of duets, he (or rather Gory) on the guitar, me on the ukulele.

The problem with retiring was Nick still enjoyed teaching, a lot. And all the gas he had gotten over the years from department chairs and deans and administrators - right up to university president's office - never dented his optimism about students and how important they were.

And Jaysus he took a lot of shit. He asked questions, refused to accept bureaucratic bullshit answers and was fearless in taking on authority.

Nick was one of a few people in the Communication Studies Department who extended themselves to welcome those of us to who were refugees of the Journalism Department when it was forced to disband back in the 1990s. He and I had already collaborated on a couple of schemes aimed at getting students a better journalism and communications education.

For those not involved in higher education (at least this is true at California state colleges) a footnote might be needed here: University faculty want students to learn; administrators are mostly concerned with filling seats and collecting cash.

I won't rehash all the nonsense he put up with - he wouldn't want it, really. He thought the people that harassed him over petty matters were kind of like the dog crap you sometimes get on your shoe. It was the price of walking free, even if annoying.  And people like that, he and I agreed, are easy to scrape off.

That's a long way of saying Nick was a stand-up guy. 

When Nick's wife Leah became ill with cancer, I spent time with both of them and to this day remain in awe of how committed they were to each other. He stood by like the rock that he was until the moment Leah died.

We should all be so brave.

Adios Nick. Say hello to Leah for me. And please sing her lots of those silly songs you and Gory were making even more famous with your traveling road show. On quiet nights around the 5th Floor of Mendocino Hall at Sac State, I suspect caring people will be able to hear the tunes.

Here's a classic:


  1. What a beautiful tribute to a dear friend. Thank you. You both make the world a kinder, better place.:)

  2. Nick was a brilliant and extremely humble professor. I'm glad I had the privilege of being in his classroom. He was an inspiration and he will be missed.

  3. This is awesome, Michael! Thanks so much for sharing!