Zaslow’s legacy is prevalent in alumni

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A neighbor and former alum sent me a copy of your coverage of Jeff Zaslow’s untimely death. I succeeded him as a former Editor-in-Chief of The Tartan. I want to let your readers know that Jeff Zaslow was an exceptional human being and a very unique Carnegie Mellon alum. He had great impact on campus before his professional success.

As a young undergraduate student at CMU, writing and journalism were not “in,” but that did not deter Jeff from forging his very unique path.

He was a problem-solving genius, knowing just how to get the best out of the engineers, artists, scientists, and actors who worked for the newspaper.

He had a vision about what he wanted from his education, from life, from friends, from the world around him. My good fortune came when an English professor recommended that I join the newspaper staff to “improve” my writing.

Jeff swooped me up and taught me everything, recognizing that curiosity and energy go a long way. We were finishing up the paper one very late night in the basement of Skibo. He and one of his good pals cornered me, convincing me that I could run the thing! He was that way. Always ready to conquer the world, and those around him had better strap on our seatbelts and go along for the ride! He made all of us who worked closely on the newspaper together feel like a million bucks.

His exuberance about campus life, finding something interesting in the most mundane happenings, really caught on and he made The Tartan into the go-to news source at CMU. The relationships we forged putting that paper together were precious.

When it came time to graduate, many of us landed solid jobs as engineers, bankers, consultants, actors, designers — and some went off to grad school. Not Jeff. He bought an airline ticket that allowed him to travel anywhere in the U.S. for the next year in search of his dream job with a newspaper. So un-CMU!

We were dumbstruck at his sense of adventure, and in awe that he was so willing and so genuinely happy to take on that kind of risk.

We knew he was something special then, but couldn’t imagine the way he made us feel would be multiplied exponentially in his lifetime.

My tribute to him is that I find myself telling my children his story and the lessons he taught — to follow your passions, to love life and people, and you will light up the world.