Remembering senior Zach Dickmann

Dickmann 2017 Viking Days
Zach Dickmann at the 2017 Viking Days Parade. Photo provided by Cheyenne Chontos

Zach Dickmann, a senior English and education major and tutor at the Augustana Writing Center from Brandon, South Dakota, passed away on March 27, 2019.

Collected here are stories from Zach’s friends, professors and coworkers. This is how they will remember him.

“Zach and I sat next to each other in class almost every single day for over a year and a half and there’s not one of those days we didn’t leave crying from laughing so much.

“We shared the deepest of conversations together about comic books, education, his travels around the country and world, spirituality, philosophy—everything that makes us human.

“Zach taught me how to be a better human, how to strive to know everything you can, how to love life and care for every single person in it. I will miss him and cherish the memories I have of him for the rest of my life.

“In one of our classes, we were asked what we wanted to be when we grew up. We all said occupations, except for Zach. He said completely seriously that he wanted to be “A Venusian.” A man from Venus. I want to think he’s there now, out in the stars on vacation.

“But I know that I will never hear another one of his jokes or see his smile or ever have a conversation with him that leaves me thinking that the world is a little bit better place.

“The only way to imagine this world without Zach is to continue doing what he did here. Learn something new today. Tell a joke. Make someone feel a little more loved. Travel the world. Read a good comic book. Truly listen.”

— Alumnus Jeffrey Thormodsgard, ‘18

“Zach was a beautiful human being. He brought incredible joy and thoughtfulness to each class discussion, and I learned so much from his insights into the texts we were reading.

“I will always remember his brilliant essays about video games in my critical theory and Victorian speculative fiction classes—how he illuminated the complexities and layers of meaning in a genre that many, unfortunately, dismiss as unworthy of study.

“Above all, Zach was kind, caring, and had such a great sense of humor. He was always a bright light in the classroom, and my heart breaks knowing I will not see that light again.”

— English professor Darcie Rives-East

“While I truly loved working with everyone at the Writing Center, Zach was always—and will always be—my favorite coworker.  We would often joke that if we weren’t assigned a shift together at least once a week, we’d have to quit.

“Of course, Zach would never quit; he loved the WC more than anyone.  Saying he had a passion for helping his peers become better writers is an understatement.  It was everything to him.  He was a born teacher and mentor, and every person he met with got his full attention.

“I was also fortunate enough to be with Zach in a few education classes.  Every so often we’d walk to class together, and I’d have to jog to keep up with him, partly because he was much faster than me, but mostly because he was so excited to get to class.

“He always shared thoughtful insights and brought his most creative work every day.  He was always the person you’d want to sit next to, as he had perfected the balance of being a respectful listener, while also knowing the perfect moment to crack a joke.

“Zach was also instrumental in the first year of the Augustana FEM club.  Even though he was not on the club’s board, Zach came to almost every meeting, helped with events, and often helped me with organizational pieces when I needed a helping hand.

“He was passionate about ending gender stereotypes, and we often discussed feminist theory and values.  This is only a brief glimpse of the kind of respect Zach held for all people.

“Zach was never one to make everything about himself.  He was often quiet and respectful.  I am only sad about this because it means that not everyone got to know the fantastic person he was.

“He is one of the best human beings I have ever had the pleasure of being friends with.  The world is a little less fun, a little less thoughtful, and a little less interesting without him in it.”

— Alumna Cheyenne Chontos, ‘18

“As a student, Zach was so thoughtful and creative. He was also daring with his writing and loved to indulge in his imagination, which seemed limitless.

As a tutor, my goodness. He was able to take the depth and investment from his own work and transfer it to that of his peers. He truly cared about helping others become better writers and thinkers. And he cared deeply about his fellow tutors.

“I’ll never forget the advice he gave to new tutors last spring. He said that you shouldn’t let all of your self-worth ride on how a tutoring session went. On the one hand, yes—this is both wise and so true. On the other, his comment made me realize that Zach has probably fought that battle himself. He was remarkably sensitive.

“He felt things more than most of us. And he didn’t want the people he cared about to feel the same pain. And it was really important for me to hear what he said.

“As a friend, I delighted in hearing him talk about a book he was reading, a J-term trip he was about to take or had just taken, or a summer job he loved. So while I mourn most of all for his family and for you all, I also mourn for all the kids who didn’t get the chance to take a class with Zach and sense his passion for books and life.”

— Daniel Gerling, English professor and director of the Augustana Writing Center

Students can receive free counseling services through Sioux Falls Psychological Services which is located in the lower level of the Sioux Falls Seminary.

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