Phi Theta Kappa and CAC Lose One of Their Own

Joe’s Memory Will Live On

Professor Heather Moulton, Cactus Contributor

It is with a very heavy heart that I share the passing of CAC student and Phi Theta Kappa president Joseph (Joe) Kirklow, who died on August 5th at age 45 of natural causes. I’m not sharing this information to start the semester on a negative note; I want to celebrate Joe’s life. Many people, including students, staff, faculty, and administration, knew and worked with Joe over his years here at CAC and in Phi Theta Kappa.

Joe began attending CAC a few years ago and joined PTK as soon as he was eligible. He was a whirlwind of energy and enthusiasm and immediately became one of our most active members. Joe could be seen at every Club Rush Day, every Welcome Week table, and every event PTK participated in (Science Nights – at multiple campuses, Inductions, Orientations, etc.). He became Vice President under President Cindy Crockett in 2014, and they were an unstoppable team. The leadership team that year was inspiring – we volunteered at the Boys and Girls Clubs in CG; we visited Kartchner Caverns and the Biosphere; we attended conferences and conventions, and we even won awards. When Cindy’s term was over, Joe was elected PTK president for 2015. Joe mentored new officers and was helping us plan a conference with Phoenix College.

Joe had many stories to tell (and loved telling them!). Before he attended CAC, Joe served in the Army during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. His family was his priority and he took special care of his disabled brother. He was one of the most generous people I’d ever met – for example, if a PTKer needed a ride someplace, Joe was there to pick him/her up. He graduated in May 2015 with a degree in accounting, but he wasn’t finished; he intended to earn another degree before transferring to a local university. He was good with numbers and would have been a fantastic accountant.

Joe was a “Who’s Who” student and won the “Outstanding PTK Officer” Award for 2014-2015; he helped our PTK chapter win Honorable Mention for Distinguished Chapter and Honorable Mention for Honors in Action Project in 2014.

Now, he’s gone, and we feel lost. I’ve asked myself numerous times how I’m going to make it through the semester without Joe on campus, in my office, running meetings, or simply smiling and welcoming new PTK members.

But I am not the only one who was inspired by or will miss Joe Kirklow. Everyone who knew him had kind words to say, and I’d like to share those words so we can remember, celebrate, and mourn together.

“I didn’t know Joe very long or very well, but he influenced me greatly in the short time I did know him. He was kind spirited, dedicated and just a great person. My heart goes out to the family and I will keep them in my sincere thoughts and prayers.”
~ April, SPC PTK Secretary

“Joe Kirklow was one of the most dependable and hardworking people I’ve ever known. When he was my vice president, Joe always was on top of things. He often did things before he was asked and I never had to ask him to do anything twice. Joe was also very friendly and outgoing. He cared a lot about people and how they felt about things. He could talk with me for hours on almost every subject. Joe loved math and was good in school. He will be much missed.” ~ Cindy, SPC PTK former President

“Joe and I met at a Phi Theta Kappa meeting almost 2 years ago. He made me feel at home and comfortable immediately with his smile and quick wit. Joe was passionate about his beliefs. Being a military veteran myself, Joe and I shared many stories of his time in the service, of which he was very proud of. He was proud of his accomplishments not only in the military but scholastically as well. Joe was very outgoing and always made people around him comfortable. He will be missed by everyone that knew him. Thank you Joe for your hard work, your service to our Great Nation and for making this world a better place for all that knew you.” ~ Sharon Miller, Phi Theta Kappan

“Joe Kirklow was, and continues to be an inspiration to all Phi Theta Kappans. His perseverance, dedication, and reliability were an invaluable asset to the Alpha Theta Delta chapter of Phi Theta Kappa. Personally, Joe was a friend to me. To me, Joe was one of those friends who you could not talk to for months and when you were reunited it was as if you had only stepped into another room briefly and you picked up right where you left off. I will miss Joe.”
~ Nate Bush, former PTK VP

“He was always excited to talk about his newest project or interest. He wanted to research and find out more, and like a great Honors student, he didn’t hesitate to dig into deep research. Oh, and he loved researching for the Zombie Lit class! He had a blast with that. He was friendly and kind; I couldn’t imagine him having a harsh word for anyone. He always had a smile, even on a tough day.

I wish I’d known him better. He would sometimes come in when he had something new to work on or write about, and he’d always start with a research question but he’d stay to talk for another 5 or 10 minutes. I remember him talking about cell phones and texting and stuff, talking about the honors in action project and researching for classes.” ~ Bonnie Simmons, Librarian

“Joe dreamed big and then worked ceaselessly to reach those dreams. He contributed greatly to the district-wide development of our chapter. To me, he was the best chapter president we have had, as he was concerned more about our chapter than about himself. He was a servant-leader. I appreciate how he looked after me, a person with physical disabilities, when we were at Nerd Nation.

Joe also was a sweet and giving person. Joe enjoyed using his computer skills to bring joy into people’s lives; my profile picture on our chapter Blackboard is an animated character playing a didgeridoo, an instrument that I sometimes play when I want to relax. I will always have that animation to remember how thoughtful Joe was.” ~ Prof. Maren Wilson, PTK Advisor

“Joe did so much to bring PTK together as a district and he anchored us in many ways. Joe brought a calming factor to our group that I really appreciated. He reached out to me as a new advisor on several occasions to help me understand various aspects of PTK. I’m thankful for the time we had this year at STEM night—he stayed to the very end—and for our day together on the GCU tour. Joe was basically an all around good guy and I’m grateful to have known him. I will miss his leadership and especially his laughs.” ~ Prof. Beverly Demaline, PTK Advisor

“Joe was an overall great guy with a big heart and an ambitious spirit. He was always the first one to sign up or volunteer for a project. Without him I am positive that PTK would not have been able to make the impact that we have up until now. He knew how to make people laugh and looked at life in a positive light like no one else I know. He will be greatly missed but will live on through the numerous people he affected.” ~ Marley Henson, PTK SLO Rep

“Joe blossomed from Phi Theta Kappa member to not only campus, but college district, leader. He led by example with his work ethic, friendly and inclusive demeanor, and professional communication skills. I was so lucky to also get to know Joe informally on a trip to the PTK International Convention in San Antonio last spring. There I saw his leadership talents flourish alongside his ability to be a great, fun friend. His absence will leave an indelible mark and Joe will be dearly missed.” ~ Dr. Carol Johnson, Honors Program Director

We are going to honor Joe by carrying on as an award-winning chapter of Phi Theta Kappa. We are also participating in the Zoowalk for Autism Research in October, and our team name is CAC-PTK: Joe’s Walkers. We are collecting funds to donate to his family, whose suffering is exponentially worse than ours.

Nate Bush, award-winning SMC student and PTK officer who knew Joe, sent this poem to help us remember and move forward: