Remembering Eddie Richardson (Pacific ’05, Penn State ’09)
The State College contingent of the Penn State Dickinson School of Law, Class of 2009, showed up on campus in August of 2006- a new thing under the sun. We will be forever bound together, however tenuously as the years march on, by our membership in that class. For now, though, we are tightly bound together by the sad and unexpected news that our classmate and colleague, Eddie Richardson, has died. Two days shy of his twenty seventh birthday.
A light, as they say, has gone out in the world. Yet we may expect that the sky will be a little brighter from now on. Eddie, a luminescent figure in life, has ascended. Perhaps from his new and sky-bound home he will continue to do for us now what he did for us in life: shine his light upon us, and thereby, in the words of that Spanish poem, “…hacer mas claro y luminoso el dia.” But now, from up there, he will reach us all at once and always, rather than, as he did in life, shine upon us separately and episodically, through his personal interactions with us.
Many members of our class knew Eddie better than I did. They no doubt can offer meaningful testimony to his life, and they are certainly invited and encouraged to do so here. But I think it says something very positive about Eddie that someone like me, who knew him, but not especially well, remembers him so fondly. He looms large in my memories of law school, and principally for this reason: He was the first person I met at the first orientation event that was held for our class, back in August of 2006. As an older student, and having just left professional life behind, I was nervous walking into the room that day; nervous about fitting in, about being accepted by my new classmates. It was a sort of discomfort I had not felt in years, back to the day I walked, as a stranger in a strange land, into the cafeteria of my new high school. I was all grown-up in 2006 when I walked into the law school orientation event, but in my mind I was right back in my high school cafeteria, embarrassingly desperate for the consolation of a friendly face.
And then there was Eddie. He was sitting at the table I arrived to- maybe he was the reason I arrived at that particular table- already popular with the people there and smiling genuinely back at me. He put me at ease. My nervousness was gone, never to return. That is the sort of kindness a person doesn’t forget in life; I haven’t and won’t. Even if, in Eddie’s case, it wasn’t so much a kindness done to me as it was an expression of who he was; which was and remains a kindness done to everyone he knew.
I sat next to Eddie in our Administrative Law class during our last semester of law school. He regularly said the best things, most of which betrayed a rare wit and a high intelligence. One of those best things, which however did not tax either his wit or intelligence to conjure, was an occasional and appropriate, “This sucks.” And he pronounced the word “sucks” in such a way that anyone unfamiliar with the word or its connotations would nevertheless have known what he meant by it; had he been made to write out his pronuciation, between the ‘s’ and the ‘cks’ would have been about fourteen pregnant u’s.
But then he would smile and go on. Which- in law school and in life- is the thing to do. It’s the thing to do not because it’s a grand invention, but because it stands well among a limited troupe of truly unpalatable alternatives.
Farewell, gentle-souled Eddie. Shine on down.