It is hard to quantify influence. I often have my students write papers on how historical events have influenced other aspects of history or even affect us today, but I’ll admit that it’s hard to realize, let alone verbalize, all of the immense ways one event can affect hundreds of others. It’s the same way with people. Every day we cross paths with people—most we will never see again, but there are those few that play such a significant part in our stories. It’s kind of crazy how a stranger can become such an intricate part of your life. Honestly, it can be terrifying if you let it—to think how this random individual can influence you in ways that you didn’t even think possible.
When I think of Ginna Dunwoody, the descriptions that come to my mind are immense, but I think I can describe her in two words—radiantly unique. She was the weirdest person you’d ever meet, but she was like cool-weird, the kind you couldn’t get enough of. To be honest with you, I was not significantly close to her. If I saw her a month ago, I would have gotten so nervous and awkwardly waved from across the room, and then texted to Taylor to tell her I saw her ha! But knowing Ginna, she would have yelled, “Jocelyn Allen the First of Lancaster!” (my actual name in case you were wondering) and run over to me. That was her—so vibrant, full of life, loving, extreme, and passionate. She knew how to make every single person feel loved and valued. One thing that I will be forever grateful to her for, was that she taught me to embrace my differences and cultivate them. There are constantly people trying to force you into a mold of who they think you should be, but that wasn’t Ginna. She saw the power of being your own person and thinking for yourself, and she didn’t let her students get by with just giving the status quo answer. She wanted us to think for ourselves, know why we believed something, and make our own choices.
Being a history major and English minor, Ginna taught me a lot giving me countless memories of her. One of my favorite classes with her was teaching history. Man, was I a weirdo wreck. We had to have a prop for each of the lessons we taught so of course, I had to go all out. I can still see Ginna’s face when I brought my snowboard in to teach about the Rocky Mountains or an actual sharpened replica of a Spartan sword to teach about the Peloponnesian War. I remember when I finished talking about the Peloponnesian War, she just looked at me in utter disbelief and practically laughed, “Jocelyn, you’re an organized train wreck. Every time I think: ‘I don’t know where this is going. It’s going to be a disaster,’ but then you just make it work.” Now that might not mean much to you, but that was one of the best compliments (possibly criticisms?) I’ve ever received. That day I realized I didn’t have to fit some mold but rather that I could embrace the things that made me different. I realized it was ok to be myself, to have different approaches to things, and even to have a different view or opinion.
I could go on, as I’m sure countless others who were closer to her than I was can. But that was Ginna—radiantly unique. Those words not only describe her vibrant red hair and her contagious smile and laughter, but also her incredible personality. I would say the world needs more Ginna Dunwoody’s, but I’m glad we had just the one radiantly unique Ginna Dunwoody. Only time will tell the significant influence of Ginna’s life, but I know I am eternally thankful for her.