Honoring the ‘Comm Mom’

Two years ago, the Department of Communication at CNU experienced the loss of a community member and friend. One year ago, they lost another. This year, they hope to honor both of their memories. 

For many, Kathy Byars was the first face students in the Department of Communication encountered. Dr. Danielle Stern shared that Byars was often the first person new Communication Studies majors bonded with, and that connection led to many opportunities for students, helping them through scholarship applications and research grant paperwork, providing them a familiar face to ease them through stressful administrative concerns. The care that she took with students gave her the name “Comm Mom.”

Secretary Senior for the Department of Communication and long time CNU staff member, Byars performed key administrative tasks and ensured daily procedures ran smoothly for the department, but for Stern she did much more. 

“It goes far beyond what has the potential to be compensated; she gave so much of herself,” Stern said. “[She] went above and beyond the expectations of the job, [she] became family, our family, to so many of us still.” Stern shared.

Richard Byars, Kathy’s husband, was also quick to lend a helping hand to anyone in the department that needed him. Stern recalled a time during her first semester when she had to move abruptly. 

“I hadn’t made that many friends yet and Kathy and Richard helped me move,” Stern said. “I remember Richard’s hands getting caught in a recliner [as] we were trying to move up the steps and he ended up being fine, but in the moment he yelled and we all laughed and the fact he was willing to injure himself trying to help me move… I had barely known both of them at the time and they became my family.”

A year apart of one another, their deaths had a lasting impact on the Department of Communications and the CNU community as a whole. 

On Twitter, Dr. Jenn Billison of the Department of Communication shared that “[Kathy] was warm and beautiful, and when we lost her in April the space she left in our department, university, the world, our lives was indescribable.”

To honor the Byars, the Department of Communication is establishing a scholarship in their names. 

According to Stern, the idea for the scholarship came about for two reasons. For one, they wanted to adequately show their appreciation for the work Kathy Byars had done for the CNU community.

“…[I]t’s too late to compensate her for that now,” Stern said. “But to honor her memory and the value of her labor that she put towards us and especially towards our students – that’s where the scholarship came from.”

The other factor that went into the creation of the scholarship was more emotional. 

“We miss her, and our students miss her…our alumni miss her,” Stern said.

For Stern and for many others in the department, this scholarship acts as a way to honor the Byars’ legacy and remind students of their widespread impact on the community.

The $7500 scholarship is currently being crowdfunded by CNU community members. At publication, it has reached 85 percent of that total. This initial push for donations through crowdfunding was done in tandem with Giving Tuesday, a national event that promotes donations to nonprofits.

Although this initial push for donations will be over on Wednesday, Nov. 28, Stern still encourages people to donate after the given date. 

Stern hopes and anticipates that this scholarship will become a yearly one, honoring her legacy for years to come.

“I miss her dearly,” Stern said. “The CNU community, alumni, family and friends can honor her legacy in this way and she can stay with us.”

Stories and memories about the Byars can be found on the CNU Communication Studies Department Twitter.

Those interested in donating can do so via this link: https://bit.ly/2js1UNm


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