Demaray Tower
The view from the office of University Communications, where Jennifer Gilnett worked for decades.

The last 13 days have been a harrowing experience of heartbreak and loss for me and many who are close to me. I haven’t said anything about it here at Looking Closer, but I think the time has come.

First, some context:

Based on the mail that I receive here at Looking Closer, I know that my readers sometimes presume that I make my living as either a novelist, a film critic, or a teacher. Fact is, I pursue those passions in my “spare time.” For the past decade, I’ve “made my living” working in the University Communications office of my beloved alma mater: Seattle Pacific University.

In my position there as a Communications Specialist, I manage marketing projects, copyedit text for everything from updates on alumni to student handbook text about campus policies. Every few months, I have the privilege of doing some writing for the amazing Response magazine, but mostly I work with campus clients to develop their communications projects in print and online. I work with a team of more than 20 talented project managers, web designers, graphic designers, marketers, and editors. They’re like a family to me, and it is a privilege to serve Seattle Pacific University.

And since 2003, I have served under the extraordinary leadership of Jennifer Johnson Gilnett.

While I don’t often write about my work at SPU, I feel compelled to post something about what happened last week: The Seattle Pacific University community has suffered a great and sudden loss.

Jennifer, director of University Communications and senior editor of Response, died Thursday, September 11, 2014, after a swift and severe illness at the age of 56. It happened so quickly that my coworkers and I are trying to recover from the shock of it.

(And keep in mind that we spent much of the summer reporting details related to the gunman who showed up on our campus and carried out deadly violence against our community. We also shared stories of the extraordinary responses of our students, faculty, and staff, and the overwhelmingly gracious response of our community. So we were still in a season of grieving, healing, and restoration at SPU.)

Jennifer was the one who led the University Communications efforts in response to the June 5 events. And that was only one small part of her tremendous legacy of service to SPU. Jennifer was beloved to SPU as an alumna, a staff member, a leader, a friend — and beloved most of all to her husband of 29 years, my dear friend Kim Gilnett, a C. S. Lewis scholar who serves as an SPU fine arts marketing associate and admissions counselor.

You can read my full remembrance of Jennifer, along with tributes from friends, students, faculty, and staff at the Response website.

If you knew her and appreciated her amazing contributions to SPU, please post your own remembrances.