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Cancer is such an insidious disease. I remember the day I was told my son had leukaemia. All I could thing about was that he was going to die. After all, in my eyes, cancer equated to death. My life experience had taught me this. Everyone I loved who had cancer died.

Thirteen years later my son is still alive – he has been lucky.

Today someone incredibly special to me was not so lucky. Nola Campbell, the director of the Flexible Learning Leaders in New Zealand (FLLinNZ) programme died at the start of this beautiful sunny day after a long and incredibly courageous fight to beat cancer.

Nola at the Peter Cammock Leadership Workshop in Dunedin - April 2005.

15 December 1946 – 4 August 2005

I heard the news as I was driving to work. The tears streamed down my face as I was trying to navigate rush hour traffic and focus on the road ahead of me. Wellington Harbour looked stunning and I felt Nola’s presence in the suns rays that were reflecting off the water. I knew that Nola timed her departure perfectly. The beginning of a new day is the perfect time to begin a new journey.

Nola was a great woman – she was an inspirational leader, an incredible teacher, a magnificent role model, and the kind of friend you knew you could always rely on. She was always ‘present’ and if she couldn’t give you her total attention she would tell you it wasn’t a good time. She never told you what to do yet she had a way of letting you know what she thought. She believed in you and your capabilities and always encouraged you. I always felt I mattered in her company.

Nola and I in the Skyline Gondola in Rotorua going to the Moodle Moot conference dinner - February 2005.

Nola was a Senior Lecturer, Professional Studies in Education at the University of Waikato in Hamilton. On her profile page she said the following about herself:

I am an eTeacher, an eLearner, eMentor and an eResearcher.

As a teacher in the area of information and communication technology (ICT) I do not see myself as any sort of expert. If I do not know the answer then I will usually know who does or at least where I can find out. I endeavour to act as a good role model in this respect. I believe in the importance of building up information networks for teachers so that information can be shared. Issues of equity and the empowering of people to overcome their technophobia are other aspects I enjoy. For a number of years I worked with people with special needs and computers so this area is also of particular interest for me.

The web site page where her profile used to be found is now blank.

Some of Nola’s sayings that I will never forget:

Have you considered …?
Pick your battles!
What’s the worst thing that could happen?
You’ll find a way.
When you have a vision nothing else matters.
You have to know yourself before you can know others.

I have been told there is something she used to say often to her students when she was working with them over the phone:

You are warm. You are alive. You can do this.

This truly sums up her philosophy of life. She treasured her time with those she loved and doing what she loved. She was determined and in her quiet way she pushed forward and got things done. It is now up to the rest of us to pick up the baton, to keep her dream alive and to make sure none of her work was in vain.

I feel priviledged to have known Nola. I hate not being able to phone her, to email her or text her, to talk to her, to hear her stories and learn from them, to be mentored by her, to laugh with her – just to be with her. She has touched so many people’s lives and truly made a difference to mine.

Good bye Nola. Safe travels.

This is indeed an incredibly sad day. Goodbye.

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3 Responses to “Goodbye to an inspirational leader”

  1. on 15 Aug 2005 at 3:31 pm Marg


    I have tears in my eyes reading your beautiful personal tribute to Nola! Thank you for sharing your feelings so openly.

    With love, Marg

  2. on 15 Aug 2005 at 11:44 pm Marica Sevelj

    Thank you Marg. I appreciate you taking the time to write your comments. I still find it hard to accept that Nola is no longer here with us.
    Love Marica

  3. on 30 Dec 2005 at 4:44 pm Mike

    You know it’s funny…it’s been almost 5 months since mom passed away and occasionally I go out on the web and do a search on her name. Every time I do it I find something I hadn’t seen before. A comment she left on a website, a paper she wrote, a mention of her speaking at a conference or (as today) nice comments of people that miss her as much as I do.

    When a came home in July to be with her I really started to understand that her level of success in her chosen field was far beyond what I had previously understood she had achieved. I continue to be very proud of the positive impact she had on so many peoples lives. Her funeral was really a testament to the person she was – there was a lot of warmth and love in that room.

    It�s hard to let her go – I continue to struggle with the fact she is gone. I look back on the 35 yrs that I knew her and there are so many stories to tell. Some things bad … more things good. As her son I couldn’t have asked for a better mom. I have no contact with my father so losing her has been extremely hard.

    I have a picture of her as a teenager rowing a boat. It hangs on the wall in my office. Every day it get’s alittle easier to look at that picture – what a neat lady.

    Mike, Atlanta GA

    P.S. See mom – no spelling mistakes ….

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