In Memoriam: Sean Stockburger

Western's Sean Stockburger, the Help Desk manager for Academic Technology & User Services (ATUS), passed away Jan. 28 at the age of 51 after a brief but intense fight with brain cancer. Stockburger was much beloved by his colleagues during his almost 10 years at the University; see below to read comments and thoughts from his co-workers about his impact on their lives, or click here to read his obituary in the Bellingham Herald.

John Farquhar

"Upon hearing of Sean's death, I searched our photo archives to find the (attached at right) photo. In it, Sean bears his signature smile -- a characteristic that along with his laugh and gentle way of speaking I will always remember and appreciate. The most common compliment that I heard about Sean was: 'Best boss ever!' I attribute the accolade to Sean's clear and comfortable way of speaking giving you his full attention. He could explain both easy and difficult concepts to you in ways that never made you feel stupid for not knowing before. Of course, this was a superior skill to have for a Help Desk manager.

On many occasions I sought out Sean's expertise. I would frequently ask him brief questions expecting a brief reply in return. Just when I figured that he didn't have time to respond, I would receive a lengthy, detailed response demonstrating Sean's deep knowledge and his willingness to give me the time needed to understand the nuances.

Sean was crucial to many technology projects here at Western often leading the end-user testing so that our Help Desk would fully understand scenarios that would likely arise. Rather than complain about how a piece of technology could be better designed, Sean was more apt to smile and chuckle even though he might have to respond to frustrated clients. Sean always deserved better than what he was dealt."

Earlene Kent

"I always attributed his lengthy replies to his southern upbringing and storytelling.  His humor and wit remain my favorite thing about him and I will remember him for the rest of my life for his kindness when my husband was seriously ill, and the gentle way he was with Jim when we met in the grocery store during Jim’s recovery where Jim couldn’t remember anything due to his treatments at Overlake, and could not place who Sean was – though they had met nearly daily in the office prior when Jim was still driving his bus. Gracious, kind, loving, one of kind, funny, witty, generous and understanding."

Aspen Clark

"Sean hired me to the Help Desk as a student employee my freshman year at Western. I was so nervous, and he was so welcoming. He took the time to personally show me around the ATUS department and checked in often on how I was coming along in learning the ropes. His check-ins never came with the daunting sense of a performance evaluation; they were always from a place of genuine care. That was something so wonderful about Sean – he would take the time to explain something to you in as much detail as possible, even if it was a simple concept. Sean also had a talent for meeting people where they were at. He never used tech jargon that would go over someone’s head, and would always kindly explain and gladly pass on more knowledge.

My mom came to visit once, and I took her to see the Help Desk. Sean could have easily not said anything at all, but he invited her to come sit in his office while I worked, just to chat. His door was always open and he made sure you knew that. He cared so much for his employees as people. I learned so much from Sean, both about technology and the ins and outs of the ATUS Help Desk, as well as personally. I know I would not be where I am today without his ongoing support and guidance. I can only hope to emulate Sean’s kind spirit everywhere I go."

Beth Albertson

"Sean was one of the first people I met when coming to Western.  From our first meeting, he emanated kindness and positive energy.  He handled a heavy workload at Western, but I always felt he had time for helping me.   When thinking of Sean, I am reminded of a famous Maya Angelou quote, 'I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.' His kind soul will be missed by his family, friends, and co-workers."