Tuesday, June 23, the world lost an amazing person. Jeffrey and I weren't super close friends. We met at ADE Institute. I remember having lunch with him, Michael Mills, and Kevin Fowler. We didn't talk every day or know every detail about each other's lives. I think our friendship was just right for both of us. We mostly kept in touch over text and social media. Every couple of months he'd ask when I'd get him tickets to see Mariah Carey when her residency was here in Vegas and before that was Janet Jackson. He sent me Star Wars cookie cutters and then asked when I'd be sending him cookies. 😂
The couple of times a year we'd chat on the phone usually it was for over an hour. It was understood that if either of us ever needed anything the other would be happy to help out. That's how I came to be involved in Mobile Learning 12.
For the last 11 years, Jeffrey had brought together a group of people to provide professional development around mobile learning. This year the conference was in jeopardy because, like so many things, Covid made convening in person unwise. He reached out and asked what platform we (The Intelligent Hoodlums, myself and Mike Lang) had used for Virgil Con last summer. Virgil Con is a virtual conference designed to remove barriers to professional learning by being free and online. So I told him we used HeySummit and he thanked me and went on his way. Later that week or maybe a week plus later, he came back disappointed that he had looked into HeySummit and it was just too expensive. I reached out to Mike and started a group chat with the three of us. After some conversation, Mike suggested Jeffrey take one of our instances on HeySummit. We could donate it and just name us as a sponsor or something. That didn't matter. The important part was the conference could go on.
Over the last few months, we talked more often than usual. He'd message me with a question about the HeySummit platform, ask for suggestions on how to organize something, or just want to make sure he wasn't overlooking a toggle when he couldn't find a feature or it wasn't working as expected. He was always taking things in stride with his own special humor.
He'd send me updates a couple of times a week on how many people had signed up. He expected 150 and ended up around 2000.
Since the 23rd I've thought a lot about why this all happened - why I lost my friend, why it's in the months before he passes that we are in touch almost daily when in a normal year we just would have talked on social media and a few times over text and on the phone. Maybe it's completely random. Maybe it's for reasons I don't even know yet. I've learned a lot about him though. I've learned from stories I've heard from other friends who saw a different side of him than I did. At the beginning of June we interviewed him and his boss, the VP of Instruction at NEMCC and a delightful woman, Michelle Baragona about transforming NEMCC into a 1:1 community college, first in the country. I learned he was involved with the Boys and Girls Club and in addition to the Mobile Learning Conference he also had the idea for First Steps to Freedom: Corinth Contraband Experience, an AR/VR app detailing the experiences of freed slaves.
I don't know why this all happened the way it did and maybe as time goes on there will be other things that become clear about why things happened as they did. One things is clear right now though, my friend was an amazing and giving person. I want to lift up his work in his honor and share it with the world so his legacy lives on.
NEMCC has created a scholarship in his honor. To donate to it, go here. If you're ever in Corinth, Mississippi, check out The Corinth Contraband Camp. Go volunteer when/if you can. Look for opportunities to connect people and make the world a better place. On thing I know for sure, everyone should be a little more like Jeffrey.
Until we meet again, my friend.