Skip Navigation

2011 Spring Issue 1 (April 8, 2011)

Students return from break to mourn John Guckin ‘14

April 8, 2011
By Beth Budnick

In a tender and solemn service last Wednesday March 30, the Carleton community mourned and remembered John “Jack” Guckin, Jr., a Carleton freshman who was killed in an automobile crash March 15 returning home to South St. Paul for spring break. The accident also killed Guckin’s father, John Guckin Sr.

Guckin was remembered by Carleton students, faculty and staff for his commitment, talent, smile, friendliness and above all, love.  In addition, perhaps the most moving speech of the night, Alice Guckin, Guckin’s paternal grandmother, remembered Guckin and mourned the loss of both her son and grandson. 

First to speak was College Chaplain Carolyn Fure-Slocum. ‘We will miss John for his smile, humor and passion,” she said. “We come together to grieve for the time we will not have with him,” she said, but also “to celebrate the richness of John’s life.”

College President Steve Poskanzer then addressed the community. “Carleton will be lessened and diminished by John’s absence,” he said. But he too celebrated John’s life. “He brought great joy to his friends, family and teachers,” said Poskanzer, and continued that Guckin’s “enormous potential had only begun to be realized.” Poskanzer also acknowledged that Guckin’s death was doubly difficult to comprehend given its sudden and arbitrary nature.”

Next to speak was Alice Guckin, who introduced herself as “Grandma Alice.” In a soft, certain voice, she recalled how Guckin—whom she referred to as “Jackie”—was “loving, loved, gentle, and good to other people.” These qualities, she said, were “so important I probably have to repeat them.”

She described Guckin’s intellectual passion, particularly his love for reading. “The world opened up for him when he learned to read,” she remembered.  Guckin also was an avid skier, and she told the story of his learning to ski for the first time. This experience in particular showed Guckin’s persistence, she said.


This persistence was a core quality of Guckin, she said. John was autistic, she explained, and capitalized on his advantages and overcame his disadvantages. But above all, she said “he was kind and gentle and good to others.”

Carleton was very special to John, remembered Alice Guckin. “From the time he visited Carleton he wanted to attend. He said something about the atmosphere made it the place he wanted to be.”  Once at school this enthusiasm continued: “I do not know much about his life here except that he was happy,” she said.  

Next, Dean of Students Hudlin Wagner remembered Guckin’s goodness and friendliness. “John was a first year student that had a light in his face,” she said. “He brought a joyous sense of living,” said Dean Wagner. In addition, she said John’s demeanor was contagious: “he pulled altruism out of each of us.”
Kevin Chapman, Guckin’s boss and colleague at the Student Computing and Information Center (SCIC), also spoke. “He was someone who was always willing to help anyone who needed his help,” said Chapman. He noted that he had tried to emulate John’s genuine friendliness and smile more often since meeting him.

Also speaking was Professor Sigi Leonhard, both with her own speech and on behalf of Professor Dana Strand. The two professors had taught a class in which Guckin was enrolled during winter term, and both noted that Guckin was “an enthusiastic learner” and truly excited about the material he learned.
Floormates and friends of Guckin also shared their sorrow and memories. Matt Weinstein ’14, Guckin’s roommate, said that “John was a patient, wonderful and caring roommate.”

First Goodhue floormate Michael McClellan ‘13 echoed these comments in his remarks. “John was kind, thoughtful and really desired everyone to do well,” said McClellan. “I speak for the entire floor community when I say that the floor will not be the same without him. John was a friend to everyone he saw, whether he knew them or not.”

Guckin’s close friend Hai Nguyen ‘13 also spoke. “John always impressed me day by day,” said Nguyen. Nguyen worked with Guckin at the SCIC and noted that Guckin was “the embodiment of a true Carl.” He continued, “He was a brilliant thinker.  He was ecstatic, enthusiastic and engaged… he was never a person who demanded too much out of you, he just wished that you could be the ‘awesome-est’ you could be.”

Goodhue Hall Director Isaiah Thomas and Guckin’s First Goodhue Resident Assistants Kate Ratliff ’13, Jonathan Isaac ’12 and John Trevino ‘12 also added their memories of Guckin.  Said Trevino, “John was willing to put himself out there for others.”  Ratliff noted that “John was a part of the First Goodhue community… he had a way of lifting your spirits.” Thomas added that “Goodhue community is deeply saddened by a loss of one of our own.”

In concluding her thoughts on her grandson, Alice Guckin noted that Guckin lived his life to the fullest. “He recently wrote that ‘he just tried to be the best person he could be,’” she said. She then addressed the audience directly: “Draw on your talents, be kind and helpful to others, and please try to be the best people you can be,” she said. “That will be the greatest tribute to John Guckin, Jr.”

For counseling, contact the Chaplain’s Office or the Wellness Center. Gifts in memory of John Guckin Jr. may be made to the Boy Scouts of America or Carleton College. Additionally, residents of Goodhue Hall are collecting funds for a memorial tree in Guckin’s name; to make a donation, contact Goodhue Hall Director Isaiah Thomas at ithomas@carleton.edu.

Floormates and friends of Guckin also shared their sorrow and memories. Matt Weinstein ’14, Guckin’s roommate, said that “John was a patient, wonderful and caring roommate.”

First Goodhue floormate Michael McClellan echoed these comments in his statements. “John was kind, thoughtful and really desired everyone to do well,” said McClellan. “I speak for the entire floor community when I say that the floor will not be the same without him. John was a friend to everyone he saw, whether he knew them or not.”

Guckin’s close friend Hai Nguyen also spoke. “John always impressed me day by day,” said Nguyen. Nguyen worked with Guckin at the SCIC and noted that Guckin was “the embodiment of a true Carl.” Continued Nguyen: “He was a brilliant thinker.  He was ecstatic, enthusiastic and engaged… he was never a person who demanded too much out of you, he just wished that you could be the “awesome-est” you could be.”

Goodhue Hall Director Isaiah Thomas and Guckin’s First Goodhue Resident Assistants Kate Ratliff ’13, Jonathan Isaac ’12 and John Trevino ‘12 also added their memories of Guckin.  Said Trevino, “John was willing to put himself out there for others.”  Ratliff noted that “John was a part of the First Goodhue community… he had a way of lifting your spirits.” Thomas added that “Goodhue community is deeply saddened by a loss of one of our own.”

In concluding her thoughts on her grandson, Alice Guckin noted that Guckin lived his life to the fullest. “He recently wrote that ‘he just tried to be the best person he could be,’” she said. She then addressed the audience directly: “Draw on your talents, be kind and helpful to others, and please try to be the best people you can be,” she said. “That will be the greatest tribute to John Guckin, Jr.”

For counseling, contact the Chaplain’s Office or the Wellness Center. Gifts in memory of John Guckin Jr. may be made to the Boy Scouts of America or Carleton College. Additionally, residents of Goodhue Hall are collecting funds for a memorial tree in Guckin’s name; to make a donation, contact Goodhue Hall Director Isaiah Thomas at ithomas@carleton.edu.

Add a comment

Please login to comment.