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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

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. 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 new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

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