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KAR Robison, a junior majoring in environment and sustainability, passed away unexpectedly in late December, 2020. They were 41. This is a collection of tributes from Cornell community members who knew KAR. 
Black & White Portrait of KAR Robison
KARS’s quote and portrait were included in a 2019 Cornell public art project titled ‘What kind of a world do you want to live in?’ Artwork by John Noltner/2019 Sevin Fellow of the West Campus House System. (View Noltner's portfolio:

“My primary connection with KAR was to help create a meaningful academic plan that would fulfill both major requirements as well as incorporate KAR’s many, many other interests. However, our conversations often diverged from academic planning. KAR shared stories of people, places and projects that — taken individually or collectively — shaped and influenced KAR’s perspective. KAR touched many lives in so many different ways. The images, photos and stories that are circulating have provided me with an even greater appreciation of their impact on every place, every person and every study they participated in. Literally a true Cornellian.”

Suzanne Wapner

Advising CoordinatorEnvironment and Sustainability

“KAR was very kind, passionate about justice and sustainability, and they were quite articulate. They were very open and clear about their struggles, which I appreciated.”

Steve Wolf

Associate professor of natural resources and the environment

“KAR was one of Compass’s most genuinely passionate members. They took their commitment to the Poetic Justice program very seriously and always looked for more ways to give more of themselves to the students. Even when they had to take a step back at times, they were persistent in jumping back in as soon as possible. KAR was so relentlessly positive and supportive in everything they did. I always felt so renewed and inspired every time I talked with KAR because of how excited they were — to hear about how I’m doing and to share new ideas to push Compass forward. I’m so grateful to have been friends with KAR.”

Brendon Nguyen '20, computer science major
Participants in Compass: The Cornell & George Junior Republic Partnership

“All of my memories of KAR are of an ineffably kind and giving person. I remember that when we worked with the high school students through the Compass program, KAR would unquestionably center the students and the students’ needs, and they taught me so much in that regard. We were working with students in an after-school poetry club, and KAR would often be so taken with a poem that they would come back the next week with an original art piece to accompany the student’s poem. I am so deeply grateful that KAR and I were friends. In losing KAR, we have lost a profoundly loving, tenacious and generous spirit.”

Rachel Whalen '19, English major
Participant in Compass: The Cornell & George Junior Republic Partnership

“KAR attended several events with the Resource Center and was always a welcome addition to our space. They had a kind heart and will be deeply missed.”

Crissi M. Dalfonzo
Assistant director of the Cornell LGBT Resource Center

“KAR was one of the most attentive and respectful students that I've had the pleasure to engage with inside and outside the classroom. Behind their evident humility lay deep and strong convictions about social justice, and they demonstrated the intelligence, imagination and stamina to engage in its pursuit.”

Gerard Aching

Professor of Africana Studies & Research Center and professor of romance studies (A&S)
Read Aching's full tribute

“KAR was an instant ray of sunshine and you could feel the excitement and confidence they were full of. While the other students were a bit unsure or not as confident, KAR would use their magic smile and aura that seemed to pass onto them and me! What a shame for such a wonderful person — inside and out — to no longer be here to pass on that enthusiasm. KAR will be greatly missed.”

Stacy Burns
Front office secretary,
George Junior Republic High School

“Such a beautiful soul will be missed by so many. I am hoping that they knew the impact that they had here with our students. I know personally the impact that KAR had on me. I looked forward to the bright smile and enthusiasm that they brought every visit. I will never forget the look on a student’s face when KAR brought a picture that they drew after a Compass session the week before. KAR spoke about the impact that the student had on them reading a poem that she had written and inspired them to draw a picture that was then given to the student. KAR not only brought their artistic talent, they brought a presence that was a comfort to our most timid students. 

I will cherish our time together, discussing how we can ensure that Compass will continue to thrive after the pandemic is over and we are all able to come back together. We had many conversations about the importance of the work that Compass does and their hope that long after they have graduated and moved on, Compass will continue to be an outlet for our students. We spoke often about the positive reflections they wrote after different experiences here. KAR will be missed here at GJR, and we will never forget the kindness, caring and devotion that they brought to Compass.”

Karen McLaughlin
Literacy Coach, George Junior Republic High School

Abstract art by KAR Robison
One of the many pieces of art work that KAR created after meeting with GJR students. The student that this was given to was so deeply touched that someone would take the time to think of them outside the club setting. McLaughlin called this “a perfect example of KAR’s dedication to our students, they were truly amazing!” Artwork by KAR Robison, provided.

Read more about how the Cornell community remembers KAR Robison.


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