Search the Otago Polytechnic website

Although many of us would now be familiar with navigating the corridors and corners that comprise the labyrinthine environment that is Microsoft Teams, I’d challenge anyone to find the channel titled “For Today”.

Well, actually, you couldn’t find it if you tried because, as of a couple of days ago, it expired.

What, might you ask, does this have to do with anything, even today?

Well, today marks the last day of work at OP for our esteemed colleague Kathryn Van Beek, whose official job title of “Senior Internal Communications Advisor” could be better interpreted as “connector and conduit”.

But let’s get back to the song . . . and that Teams channel.

“For Today” is just one of the many projects, big or small, that Kathryn has posited, pushed or polished in the time she has spent here.

It is named after former Dunedin band Netherworld Dancing Toys’ single of 1985. It’s a catchy number, for sure, redolent of good-time party vibes, of friendship and kindness, of collaborations that result in more than the sum of their parts.

A year ago, about a week or so after we’d gone into Covid-induced lockdown, Kathryn suggested a few of us do a cover version of “For Today”.

The call to arms was based on a simple premise: to make staff feel better, to present a joy-filled coming-together, given we couldn’t all be together in the flesh.

That the video and audio didn’t get much further than the bedrooms and/or lounge stereos of the few who chose to be involved is not the point.

The point is, Kathryn saw an opportunity to bridge a gap, to connect us once again.

And that’s what she has done, over and over, in her five years here.

I’ve been here some 18 months less than Kathryn, but my OP orbit has been time enough to to feel, every day, the gravitational effects of that rare mix of creativity, professionalism and passion.

Outside these walls, beyond the edible garden, others have benefited from Kathryn’s warm quest to improve what she can within this wild world.

There have been books, glorious stories for kids and adults alike, but the tale I’d like to finish with is a history lesson: last week Kathryn’s efforts changed New Zealand legislation. And in doing so, she has provided a window of solace for many who have experienced the loss of an unborn child.

Such was the ground-breaking nature of the news that it made the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian and, not be undone, our own ODT, among others. She even had to race to turn her home office into a studio for a live interview with Australia’s ABC News.

But Kathryn’s used to racing around. It’s what she does. Even if she never seems to raise a sweat.

There’s a recurring line in the chorus of “For Today” that has to do with remembering a smile. I reckon it’s a good enough springboard for reflection.

For in her days here, Kathryn has made many of us smile. Again and again.

Footnote: Because Kathryn is not one to brag, please read on

 


Published on 31 Mar 2021

Orderdate: 31 Mar 2021
Expiry: 30 Apr 2023