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This past weekend, Dr. Christine Jaworek-Lopes of the Chemistry department, known by her students as Dr. J, passed away. According to an online obituary, Dr. J died on May 21 after battling Stage 4 colon cancer. She was diagnosed 16 months ago.
Dr. J received her Bachelor of Science and Ph.D. from Tufts University. During her time at Emmanuel, Dr. J served as the chair of the Chemistry department. In her faculty page on the Emmanuel College website, Dr. J notes that she is an active member of the Northeastern Section of the American Chemical Society (NESACS) and serves as National Chemistry Week and as an Alternate Councilor for the Section.
She conducted research at Emmanuel, “analyzing tattoo inks for heavy metal content as well as the chemistry of degradation of tattoo ink pigments by laser irradiation,” according to her faculty page. Dr. J was also passionate about research in green chemistry as well as science education.
Outside of Emmanuel, Dr. J was busy raising her two children, one of whom set up a fundraiser at his school to raise money to help his mother, running races for the Boston Athletic Association, writing her book on chemistry and art, and singing along to Rachel Plattens’s “Fight Song.”
“There aren’t words to describe how profound the loss of such an exceptional woman is. But then, Dr. J wouldn’t have wanted anyone to waste time trying to find such words. She would much rather everyone find some joyful memory to hold on to instead,” says Jennifer Scarborough ’17. “Through her battle, her grace and dedication to what she loved was unwavering. She stayed on at Emmanuel long after anyone could have asked her to, because that is simply the kind of person she was; students needed her, so she was going to be here. Every class started with a smile, and ended with one too, no matter how brutal the quiz was.”
According to Scarborough, no one left Dr. J’s classroom the same person they were when they walked in. She says that, if there is something to be learned from this, it is that no one gets as much time as they deserve. Dr. J made the best of her time.
“Thank you for the memories, for spending office hour after office hour explaining organic chemistry without ever losing your patience, for showing us what it means to handle life with grace, and for teaching us to smile and laugh and love life, even when life isn’t being fair,” says Scarborough. “There is a hole in Emmanuel without you here, but there could never be a single moment that you are far from our hearts. You inspired more people than anyone could ever count. Thank you for your guidance, your wisdom, your faith, and most of all for your love. Once a saint, always a saint.”
“Maybe once in a lifetime, we are blessed to know someone who loves without limitations,” says Scarborough. “Someone whose mere presence makes you feel a little safer, who feels like a perfect hand to hold when life get a little stormy, and whose unquestionable strength makes you a little stronger too. That someone is, and always will be, Dr. J.”
Visitation for Dr. J will be held at the Sullivan funeral home in Hanover, MA, this Wednesday from 4:00-8:00 PM. The funeral mass will be held at the St. Mary of the Scared Heart parish in Hanover, MA this Thursday at 10:00 AM.
Chemistry students have formed a petition to dedicate Wilkens Science Center room 111 in her honor. They will present the petition to Emmanuel College on Tuesday, May 24.
UPDATE: According to a recent Portal announcement from Sister Janet, President of Emmanuel College, the College has established a new faculty award in Dr. J’s honor.
“The Faculty Excellence in Service to the Community award annually recognizes a faculty member whose actions embody the commitment to service that is at the core of Emmanuel’s mission and that Christine exemplified throughout her tenure at the College. Christine herself is the first recipient of this honor.” says Janet in her announcement.
Abigail Matheson is the Editor in Chief of The Hub. She can be contacted at email@example.com and on Twitter @abbimathy.
Special thanks to Jennifer Scarborough ’17, a Chemistry major, who was a guest writer for this piece and Christian Kelly ’17, a Chemistry major, who provided additional information.