My deepest sympathies go out to Rita and to the family of Brian.
I first met Brian Slator one evening in 1997. He was presenting a seminar on “Dollar Bay”: his immersive, virtual village where a visitor would role-play and compete as a store owner. After the seminar, I introduced myself and we went out for a beer — the first of many (no, many!!!) meetings over beer that we would share.
In those early years of our acquaintance, Brian would work in the evenings at The Bison Turf, where he could access wireless and use his laptop throughout the evening. He and I would often meet there to talk about joint projects. Brian had *his* table at the extreme southwest corner of the Turf, and he would always sit facing northeast so as to both have eye contact with the servers and be able to view the Twins games. If I happened to show up early and seat myself at that table, the staff and regular customers would glare aghast — like, how dare you sit at “Dr. Slator’s” table? As soon as Brian walked in and give me his always-warm greeting of “Dr. Schwert”, the glares would diminish into evident relief.
While our conversations over the years would mostly center on projects, they would soon wander off onto other topics:
- Brian’s desire to someday visit “Slator Lake” in remote Manitoba, named after an uncle who had died in WWII;
- Brian’s exuberant and in-depth analyses of daily drama in “Mary Worth”, a truly pithy comic strip in The Forum;
- His pride at engineering a solution to ice-damming on his roof;
- Brian’s expounding on the best strategies for winning at BINGO (“Dr. Schwert, filling the corners is critical”);
- His regrets at leaving all those brand new windows behind at his original “Clubhouse”;
- And his excitement at launching an AirBnB business at his new “Clubhouse”.
When we traveled together to conferences, it was always an adventure. Brian would always select the lodging. Our first trip was to San Antonio, where he, Paul Juell, and I shared a room in a motel so ratty that even Days Inn had taken its name off it. And our next trip was to Orlando, where our hotel was also hosting a “Con-fur-ence”: a gathering of LGBTQ furries, dressed as animals. (Brian would later recall, “Hah!, Dr. Schwert! Remember that squirrel making out with the tiger!?!”).
This past year, I missed Brian’s trip to finally visit remote “Slator Lake”, but gloried in his excitement as he shared photos and tales of the event.
Brian was a prodigious writer of grants and papers. His proposals were often so embellished with lofty prose that we as co-authors had to work to convince him to tone it down a bit. But, in the end, Brian was central to bringing in millions of grant dollars to NDSU, which then led to the development of new projects and even a fun little company named “WoWiWe Instruction Co.”
Brian was author of two books: “Electric Worlds” (a book on his educational research) and “Chapters” (a novel, published in 2012). He was co-author on others.
Rita chose a former student, Otto Borchert, as one of the first people to be contacted about Brian’s death. Brian would have liked that, for him students always came first. Brian brought out skills and creativity of so many young people — in the sciences, humanities, and the arts. And his many projects involved K12 teachers and their students, not only regionally but nationally. Brian was fiercely loyal to his students and his staff, and all’s he expected back is that they be loyal to him.
I liked working with Brian. Even more, I just really liked being around him. With each encounter, I never knew what to expect. Each surprise would lead to another story (of his … of ours) to later be shared over a beer. I am so grateful to have known Brian. His passing has left a deep void in my life.
Donald P. Schwert