Dr. Kate Madden: 1946 - 2012
Published: Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 12:04
A teacher, mentor, friend and, above all, a beloved member of the College at Brockport family, Dr. Emeritus Kate Madden, 65, passed away April 10, following complications from heart surgery.
An associate professor in the Brockport communication department, Madden taught journalism and communication courses for more than 17 years at the college. Before her time at Brockport, she received her bachelor’s degree in English from Colby College at Waterville, Maine. She went on to earn a master’s degree in communication from the University of Pennsylvania.
After earning her master’s, Madden worked in the communication field, holding various jobs as an editor, reporter and community relations coordinator. She also spent some time at the front of the classroom as an adjunct professor and teaching assistant.
Eventually, Madden chose to return to college to receive a doctorate degree and become a college professor.
Madden received her doctorate in speech communication from Pennsylvania State University. After spending time teaching at Lycoming College, Allegheny College and SUNY Geneseo, Madden came to Brockport in 1994.
Monica Brasted, Brockport communication department chair, said Madden joined the Brockport communication family after a spot opened.
While at Brockport, she taught many of the media studies classes, including news writing, film as a social commentary and history of American journalism. Madden was also influential in creating a former course in the department titled the communication revolutions.
“She was really kind of a character,” Brasted said. “She had her own unique style of teaching and was larger than life.”
Every time a new faculty member comes to Brockport, he or she is given a staff mentor. This is someone to answer questions and offer advice to the new members.
When Brasted first came to Brockport, Madden was her mentor. Brasted said that as a mentor, Madden was very helpful.
When Marsha Ducey, an associate professor in the communication department came to Brockport, she too had Madden as a mentor.
Ducey said she was glad she had the opportunity to be mentored by Madden.
Madden was a fantastic mentor, offered great advice and always pushed Ducey to do more, she said.
“She was always on my back about my dissertation,” Ducey said. “Two weeks wouldn’t go by without her asking me if I had worked on it. She was so happy when I got it done and defended it last summer.”
The fall semester of 2010 was Madden’s last teaching at Brockport. Her retirement was not official until April 2011. Once retired, Madden spent time travelling, a favorite hobby of hers, colleagues said.
“Right after she was retired she took a cross-country trip with her dog,” Brasted said. “The two got in the car and drove to Oregon where she had some family. She loved to travel.”
Madden also became involved in dog competitions. She and her Labrador retreiver, Caleb, would compete in agility training and flyball competitions across the country.
“She was a wacky person but in a good way,” Ducey said. “I feel so lucky I got to know her. She was extremely smart and had a great sense of humor. She always had us laughing.”
The students lucky enough to have met Madden or have her as a teacher were shocked and saddened by her death. Many applauded Madden for the way she challenged her students daily and livened up the classroom atmosphere.
Bethany Young, a 2010 graduate from Brockport, now works as a reporter at the Messenger Post. Like many, she was a student of Madden’s and spoke of the impact Madden left behind.
“She was a tough teacher, but I am so thankful (to have had her) in the long run,” Young said. “She made us become better thinkers.”
Young took her first class with Madden during her sophomore year.
She said Madden was a challenging teacher. When you signed up for a Madden class, she said, you knew what you were in for.
“In a class with Madden, you knew you would be writing a lot,” Young said. “There were essays after essays. She was challenging and made you think. There were no easy answers.”
Outside of being a professor who forced students to work their hardest, Madden was also known for her props in the classroom.
Young said when she took communication revolutions with Madden, Madden would bring in many tangible examples that made the course more interesting.
She said Madden would come into the class with newspapers from the 1800s or original telegraphs and even a rain stick Madden would use to “shake up” the class.
Andy Chruscicki, a 2011 Brockport graduate also had the chance to learn from Madden while at Brockport. He took many of her classes and was also a teaching assistant for Madden.
“She was easily the best teacher I ever had,” Chruscicki said. “She was encouraging toward her students and that is something that is very hard to find in a teacher. When you experience someone like that, it sticks with you your whole life.”
Chruscicki, Young and other students who shared their feelings through various social media outlets all agreed Madden looked at her students as though they were family.
“Her students were like her children,” Young said. “She wouldn’t let you get away with anything; she wanted you to succeed. There was a lot of tough love.”
Madden started a tradition in the communication department that celebrated all of the department graduates. She would research each student’s plan for after graduation and create a board highlighting their plans. The board was on display at the communication department’s annual reception.