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Happy Birthday, Eileen Stevens, founder of C.H.U.C.K

Heroine of my Broken Pledges book Eileen Stevens is 73. Today’s antihazing education and activism efforts go back to 1978 and her attempts to change the hazing culture nationally. One of the biggest triumphs has been the hazing research work done by Norm Pollard at Alfred University where her son died in ’78. Happy Birthday, dear amiga.

Here is the lead to Broken Pledges:

The call came in the middle of the night. Eileen Stevens’s son was dead. She was alert and numb at once, her flesh no longer part of her. She wanted to hang up. She wanted the caller to stay on the line forever. She wanted to know what had happened and how. But most of all she wanted the call to be a dream, a very bad dream.

The pain in the caller’s voice, the small break in his professional manner, revealed the truth, told her the worst had happened. She was ready to bargain with God. The devil. The caller himself: Take my life, my soul—take me. I’ve lived. But make it untrue. Take me, not Chuck.

But Chuck was dead.

She wondered through the house. A gong vibrated between her ears. She eyed the refrigerator. The freezer held the ingredients for chili. Chuck alone in her family loved it. Parents Weekend at Alfred University was approaching, and she had planned on taking him a special meal.

She went into his room. In the closet were the boots and skis she’d given him not two months earlier. He’d used them only once. She was glad she exceeded the budget to buy them. She could still hear his squeal of joy on Christmas morning. Twenty, he’d acted like a four-year-old. His joy was infectious, his hugs, genuine. If only she had kept hugging him forever, never let him go.

 

By Hank Nuwer

Journalist Hank Nuwer is the Alaska author of Hazing: Destroying Young Lives; Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. In April of 2024, the Alaska Press Club awarded him first place in the Best Columnist division and Best Humorist, second place.

He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His current book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press. He is married to Malgorzata Wroblewska Nuwer of Warsaw, Poland and Fairbanks, Alaska. Nuwer is a former columnist for the Greenville (Ohio)Early Bird and former managing editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska.
Nuwer was named the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists columnist of the year in 2021 for his “After Darke” column in the Early Bird. He also won third place for the column in 2022 from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He and his wife Gosia, recently of Union City, Ind., have owned 20 acres in Alaska for many years. “The move is a sort-of coming home for us,” said Nuwer. As a journalist, he’s written about the Alaskan Iditarod sled-dog race and other Alaska topics. Read his musings in his blog at Real Alaska Daily--http://realalaskadaily.com and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

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