Displaced student has emotional reunion with prof

Leslie Schelat

Sarah Pynes peeked in the doorway of Daily Kent Stater adviser Carl Schierhorn’s office in Taylor Hall in eager anticipation of who sat inside.

Paul Schierhorn, Carl Schierhorn’s brother and Pynes’ theater professor from Tulane University, sat around the wall, not knowing who he was about to see.

Paul Schierhorn had no idea that Pynes was on her way from her dorm to meet him, the first time the pair had met since Hurricane Katrina forced the evacuation of New Orleans. And when Pynes transferred to Kent State, she never imagined she would find her professor on the same campus.

“I think I have a few broken ribs,” Pynes said after Paul Schierhorn enveloped the petite senior in a massive bear hug.

Neither Pynes nor Paul Schierhorn thought they would see other Tulane students or professors at Kent State, so their meeting was a special surprise for both.

“I have been pretty worried about all the professors,” Pynes told Paul Schierhorn as they caught up on what teachers and students were doing and who had relocated where.

Tulane’s Web site is serving as a means of direct communication to students, faculty and staff from university President Scott Cowen. Paul Schierhorn has been logging the contact information and locations of theater department students and staff with whom he has talked in hopes that everyone is eventually located.

Paul Schierhorn was in North Carolina for a family wedding when Katrina hit land. He came to Kent to pick up a car from Carl Schierhorn so that he would have a vehicle to use until he was able to return to New Orleans and see if his own car was spared.

Pynes evacuated with friends to Austin, Tex., while Katrina was still a Category 3 hurricane. Like many others in New Orleans, she did not recognize the seriousness of the situation.

“I came back from the pool (in Austin), and the levees had been breached,” Pynes said.

From there, she realized she would not be returning to Tulane and began looking for alternative education options.

Since she had visited Kent State in search of a graduate architecture program, and because her boyfriend was returning home to Cleveland to attend Case Western Reserve, Kent State was a logical choice for Pynes.

When the pair was reunited, theater talk was flying as they compared books and curriculum of the two colleges.

“They use the same books as Tulane,” Pynes said, happy that it would not set back her studies too much.

They talked of the spring semester’s performance schedule and whether or not Paul Schierhorn should continue with his chosen plan or start from scratch with something that would address the storm.

Pynes and Paul Schierhorn are both anxious to return to Tulane when it reopens, which is anticipated to be in time for the spring semester.

“I have to go back – I work for Tulane,” Paul Schierhorn said.

He is ready to return, even if it means leaving his wife and son in North Carolina, where they have retreated until Katrina’s path has been cleared.

Pynes also plans return to Tulane in the spring to finish her last semester of college where she began.

“I’m just afraid the freshmen won’t come back,” Pynes said. “They haven’t come to know and love Tulane like we have.”

But regardless whether Tulane reopens for the spring semester, Paul Schierhorn and Pynes both agree that they have to move on with their lives away from Tulane, without forgetting about what is still happening there.

Paul Schierhorn was also worried about Pynes. In his brief meeting with John Crawford, the director of the School of Theater and Dance at Kent State, Paul Schierhorn passed on a touching message about his former student.

“If you take care of Sarah, and I know you will, you’ll have done a great thing,” Paul Schierhorn said.

Contact general assignment reporter Leslie Schelat at [email protected].