Family, friends and Indiana University Northwest faculty and students plan to gather next week to say goodbye to a university administrator some have called the "spirit and soul of the campus."
Robin Hass Birky, 41, died Friday morning after a semitrailer driver disregarded a red light and plowed into the driver's side of her Jeep Liberty at Ind. 49 and Vale Park Road, Valparaiso police said.
Hass Birky, an IUN associate vice chancellor and the wife of Valparaiso fire Capt. Mark Birky, is remembered as a brilliant scholar, upbeat personality and talented teacher by many faculty, students and alumni.
Hass Birky never forgot what it was like to be a student, and talked about raising her son as a single mother while attending graduate school in the early 1990s, said Linda Delunas, an associate dean at IUN.
"She really understood and could relate to our students, and a lot of our students' struggles," she said.
Hass Birky held countless office hours and did all she could to help students, regardless of whether they were struggling or at the top of the class, said Mary Harris Russell, IUN professor emeritus of English. She also was devoted to her husband and son, she said.
"It was nice seeing Robin in love," Harris Russell said.
Hass Birky began teaching at IUN in 1995, and had served for three years as the university's associate vice chancellor for academic affairs. She earned her doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin in 1995. Her areas of research and instruction included medieval literature and rhetoric, English composition and linguistics, and Arthurian legend.
She had the ability to inspire, according to family friend Karen Orehowsky, of Washington D.C.
"She was truly brilliant, but she was also magical," Orehowsky said.
During a trip to Washington, D.C., in June, Birky stopped for dinner and enthralled Orehowsky's 5-year-old with stories of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, she said.
"She was an amazing teacher, a wonderful friend (and) a devoted mother to her son," she said Saturday. "It is somewhat ironic, and I hope in some way, a reflection of her gentle touch, that this afternoon my son is outside with his best buddy -- each with sword in hand -- playing knights."
IUN graduate Laure Gilliam, of New Port Richie, Fla., said Hass Birky affected her life and teaching style. In 1998, Hass Birky made sure she graduated on time by teaching a class for her and another student out of her home, Gilliam said.
"She was always very approachable and helpful and willing to go out of her way for students and do whatever she could to make sure we understood what she was teaching," Gilliam said, adding that as a teacher she has tried to follow her positive style.
Visitation is scheduled from 2 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Moeller Funeral Home at 104 Roosevelt Road, Valparaiso. The funeral will be at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at Heartland Christian Center at 170 S. Ind. 49, Valparaiso.