A celebration of life for Christopher M. Sowa, interim associate director for residence life with KU Student Housing, will be from 4-5 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 9, in the KU Memorial Union ballroom. Sowa, 37, died unexpectedly Jan. 29. A private family service is planned this week in Illinois.
KU Director of Student Housing Diana Robertson paid tribute to Sowa’s influence on students and staff: “We are grieving deeply the loss of Chris. He was a consummate professional whose contributions will have a long-lasting impact on the lives of many students and staff members.”
Among his accomplishments were proposing and leading the KU Student Housing residential curriculum, said Jennifer Wamelink, then-associate director of residence life and currently associate vice provost for student affairs.
“This is a shocking and painful loss,” Wamelink said. “He was a critical part of our success as a residence life program. In addition to the residential curriculum, he can be credited with developing partnerships for the new Daisy Hill Commons and supporting many young leaders through his work with the Association of University Residence Halls. Chris was an exceptional teacher and mentor with a strong commitment to social justice.”
Sowa earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Iowa and his master’s degree in organizational and multicultural communications from DePaul University. He worked as a residence director for Luther College in Iowa and for DePaul University before coming to KU in April 2010.
Sowa’s contributions to the greater university were noted by Tammara Durham, vice provost for student affairs: “Chris was a highly regarded professional with a very bright career ahead of him. His passing is a significant loss to our campus and profession.”
While at KU, Sowa worked on a number of university-wide committees, including the Student Affairs Assessment committee, the advisory board for the Center of Sexual and Gender Diversity, and most recently as a member of the Chancellor’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Group.
“On behalf of the entire University of Kansas community, I offer my sincere condolences to Chris’ family, friends and colleagues across the nation,” said KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. “My thoughts are with them during this difficult time.”