By TAMMY SHARP
Faculty, staff and students at Northwestern State Univerisity’s Leesville-Fort Polk campus resumed classes Monday with heavy hearts over the passing of Larry Monk, the institution’s executive director since 2003.
Monk died suddenly in his home last Thursday morning. Funeral services were on Saturday.
In the outer chamber of Monk’s office, the door of which was discreetly closed, employees gathered early Monday morning for an impromptu memorial of their employer, their friend and their mentor.
“The saddest part for me is that his door is shut,” said Martha Koury, director of student services at the campus. “He never shut his door unless he was in a meeting.”
Monk was a family man, said Joyce Barnes, the financial aid officer at the campus.
“He always said your family comes before work,” she added. “He remembered the names in your family, especially the kids.”
Koury, a mother of two, agreed, remembering how he kept toys, and a special drawer of peanuts in his office for students’ and employees’ children.
He even helped Koury, pregnant at the time, put together her baby stroller, she said adding that he wasn’t above helping her no matter what the need, from her education, to her personal life, to her work life.
His ability to be friend, encourager, father-figure, and employer all at the same time is what garnered her respect the most, she added.
“He encompassed all those things in one person,” she said. “He was respected because of all those things.”
“He was a true Christian, and he brought it to work with him,” Barnes added, remembering how Monk had guided her and another employee through a spiritual curriculum he was involved in at his church.
“He cared about the little things,” Koury said, explaining that Monk had been the one to begin the employee-sponsored Purple Shield Fund at the campus, which provided students in need funds for small items, such as books or the last couple hundred of tuition.
One year he gave $240 to a soldier’s wife with no financial aid and just enough for tuition. The woman was able to buy her books, said Barnes. The only stipulation was that the woman remember the fund when she was more financially stable. Two years later, the woman and her husband donated $500 to the fund.
“A lot of students have done that,” Koury said. “That’s what he would tell them.
“He took on each student’s problems like it was his own,” she added.
The faculty and staff, not a stranger to the occasional potluck meal, had not had one recently, until the Friday before Monk’s death, when they gathered to wish a student worker a fond farewell, Koury said.
Monk donned his grilling costume and flipped burgers for the whole crew, Koury said.
Described as a “gadget man” and a “prankster,” Monk was not above getting a laugh, his employees said.
“Every time I signed onto my computer, my sound would be on full blast,” said Jaquetta. “I would hear him laughing in his office.”
“He had a vested interest in not only this campus but the community and the people who worked for him,” Koury said. “I just want students to know that we’re going to have to band together to help them and to to fill his shoes.”
Students are wrapping up the last week of summer term classes.
Heavy hearts at NSU Leesville-Fort Polk
By TAMMY SHARP