It is with deep regret and profound sadness that the entire Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics joins together in mourning the loss of Maura Binkley, one of our cherished students. Maura was a German major in our department, who also pursued a second major in English. Her academic performance was consistently excellent, and she also excelled in her extra-curricular and study-abroad initiatives.
In the fall of 2017 she won the second prize, out of twenty-seven competitors, in the essay contest, “Germany: Integrating Immigrants,” which was a part of the activities of the Campus Week “Germany: Making Choices.” Maura also received a prestigious Winthrop-King undergraduate scholarship to study at the University of Wuppertal in Germany during the summer of 2018. While abroad, Maura explored Germany by traveling from Munich in the South of the country to the Frisian Islands in the North together with family members. She successfully completed her German academic courses and also visited other European countries. Professor Cornelia Grasel, the Vice-President for International relations at the University of Wuppertal, recalls the honor of welcoming this “enthusiastic, kind, generous, and hard-working exchange student” who made a real impact on their campus community.
We cannot echo enough these words to express how much Maura impacted those she interacted with in our department. We would like to remember here the special person Maura was and the positive impact that she had on her instructors and students, as she so diligently and successfully worked to achieve her degree in German.
In the following short quotes from longer messages addressed to Maura’s loving family, her fellow students of the German program remember her constructive impact: “The impact that she had on our lives […] will linger and exist in our hearts and minds” (Wilson Xu) as “she will continue to shine her light in the hearts of all that knew her” (Rebekka White). Maura was an “inspiration” and gave everyone “smiles, laughter, and love” (Alexander Dally). Her smile “was blinding; it was warm; it was pure joy” (Sterling Strmel) and “her presence always carried such a joyous and bright energy with it. An energy that was contagious” (Jamie Macpherson). Maura “radiated warmth […], was genuine” (Alix Clise) and her “spirit remains with us here at FSU” (Rowan Basham). Maura’s fellow students aim “to continue her legacy,” for example her investment in the “importance of women in politics” (Gabriela Maduro). The students of the German program and the Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics “feel the loss of her presence in [their] lives, but the golden memory of her yet lives and all of us here know that it will never fade” (Jacob Salas).
Members of the German faculty echo these feelings by remembering Maura as “such a kind spirited, energetic, joyous person. I still see the smile and cheerfulness she brought to class meetings” (Birgit Maier-Katkin). She was an “enthusiastic, hard-working, and committed student whom I respected and valued very much” (A. Dana Weber). “Over the semesters in our program, we saw her grow into a wonderful young woman – intelligent, courageous, determined. Making best use of the great resources that our academic community has to offer, she explored the beauty of this world and was filled with the ambition to share this beauty with others” (Christian Weber).
No words can adequately express the pain that Maura’s loss has caused her family and loved ones, her instructors, her fellow students, and her friends. What we can do is celebrate and honor the memory of someone who touched so many with her enthusiasm, curiosity, determination, cheerfulness, and caring nature.
I won’t pretend that I know your story.
What I do know are stars scattered
amongst the night sky, emerging during brief
chats before the bell rings and gleaming
while we discuss a hard read.
I wish I could’ve seen the constellations,
known the story from beginning, and not
just the all too bitter end.
Where did the North Star lead?
Graduation approaching, perhaps another trip to Germany,
teaching English and making good use of that degree,
or maybe working near home in Atlanta
with a stable five figure salary.
We were strangers, but over the years
solidarity grew between us while studying
a second language.
(This poem for Maura was written by fellow student Tessa Foster)
We would like to close by sharing Maura’s reflections about her study abroad experience during the summer 2018 term as a recipient of a Winthrop-King scholarship:
“During the summer semester of 2018, the Winthrop King Institute made it possible for me to spend 4 months at Die Bergische Universität Wuppertal in Wuppertal, Germany. Thanks to the undergraduate study abroad scholarship I was awarded through Winthrop King, I was able to embark on the experience of a lifetime without having to worry about the financial burden often associated with studying abroad. In Wuppertal, I studied German language and culture alongside German and other international students. This experience refined my German language skills and challenged me academically. Not only did I grow intellectually, but also because of the Winthrop King scholarship, I was able to make invaluable friendships with students from around the world. My time in Germany led me to new horizons and will forever be remembered as one of the greatest parts of my college experience.”