THERE comes a time in our lives when we ask ourselves, “What will my legacy be?”
Most of us strive to leave a positive mark and hope to touch the lives and causes that are a recognition of all that is important to us.
This was no different for Karen Josephine Patricia Chapman, 49, who was with The Star for over two decades. She started with the company in 1999 as a journalist before working her way up to education editor in 2014 – a position she held until her passing last Saturday, after a two-month battle with pneumonia.
The Star education desk’s longest serving journalist was laid to rest in Setia Alam on Monday.
Chapman was the force behind the desk that housed her team of makers and dreamers and builders and tinkerers.
Armed with an honours degree in History from the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, she started her career in journalism with The Sun Daily in 1995.
While doing what she loved best, Chapman found the time to develop and treasure relationships that have stood the test of time.
The friendship between Chapman, Linda Archibald and Shamala Gopalan spanned 25 years – when they first got to know each other in the newsroom of The Sun Daily.
“Karen has always been known for her great heart and spirit of generosity for those around her.
“Her Catholic faith and her close-knit family have always been the anchor and cornerstone that kept her so rooted, even as she moved up the ranks from being a journalist to an editor.
“Though a quiet and gentle soul, she worked very hard – tireless and unwavering throughout her career. She was never one to shrug off responsibility, ” said Archibald, who bore witness to Chapman’s rise to editor at The Star.
It was a role she shouldered with great responsibility until the very end.
“I witnessed her move from being a news journalist, to a specialist writer for environment and then a specialist in the field of education and rising to the ranks to head the education desk. She had her feet firmly planted to the ground and her head on her shoulders, ” said Archibald.
When a good friend passes, no words can fill the void in your life. This is Shamala’s pain of losing someone who means so much.
“Karen has left us for a much better world but I will forever be blessed by the beautiful memories of our friendship. Rest in peace dear friend and a star will shine brightly in the Heavens for you tonight, ” she said.
Nancy Chin and Chapman’s friendship was another example of one that has stood the test of time and distance. Chin got to know Chapman from their days as classmates in a primary school.
“Her family had just moved to Kuching. I remember the quiet, almost timid-looking Karen. We took a liking to each other and we became friends almost instantly.Perhaps it was our similar demeanour that made us click. We enjoyed writing too, ” said Chin.
Years later, they had changed schools and had lost touch with each other. It wasn’t until 1995 upon completing her studies in Universiti Sains Malaysia that Chin reconnected with Chapman.
“She was still the same person I knew back in school, and we clicked like we were in school again, ” recalls Chin fondly.
The friends kept in touch but sadly never managed to meet up after Chin left journalism to pursue a career in Switzerland in international development.
“The last message I received from her was on Feb 27. She sent me a photograph of myself and the badminton team of the school. She began the message with: ‘Guess what I found?’”
“There was no ‘How are you?’ or ‘Sorry for not keeping in touch for so long’. When I read that message, I smiled and thought how it still felt like all those years when we were back at school, ” continued Chin.
Describing her as thoughtful, Star Media Group (SMG) former editor-in-chief and education editor Datuk Leanne Goh said she would do little things to let a person know she cared.
“She left us too soon but she will stay with us in our hearts and memories forever, ” said Goh.
Sunway Education Group chief executive officer Elizabeth Lee worked with Chapman on a professional level. Over the years, however, the friendship grew in strength.
“Her personal contribution was mostly unseen as she quietly and deftly steered through the waves in a steadfast direction according to the needs of the nation, leading her team to write important stories which would best support students, teachers and citizenry.
“I admired her tenacity and passion as her genuine interest and love for the subject was evident as we chatted into the early hours of the morning if something had happened which could impact the Malaysian education scene and development, ” said Lee.
Chapman passed away on Teachers Day, making it all the more poignant and memorable as this journalist spent most of her career in writing and enlightening us on matters relating to the education sector.
Former Education and Deputy Education Ministers
“So sad to hear about the passing of such a dedicated and kind woman. Knew her very well as she used to cover me when I was Education Minister many years ago. My heartfelt condolences to her family friends. My thoughts and prayers are with you all.” – Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein
“She was an incredibly dedicated professional especially in education journalism throughout the years I’ve known her. Her passing is a great loss not only for The Star but for so many others.” – Transport Minister Minister Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong
“She was a true Malaysian whose heart and mind was dedicated to educational excellence. She wanted all races to achieve their full academic potential and was steadfast that quality education was a right of all Malaysians irrelevant of economic status, religion or race.
Throughout the 10 years I’ve known her, she was always full of ideas and passion for education. Every conversation we’ve had was always about uplifting the sector. She served The Star admirably during her glittering 21-year career with them but she should have been with us all for much longer.” – MIC education bureau chairman Datuk P Kamalanathan
Readers and StarEdu contributors
“A great journalist. Big lost for think-tank groups. RIP.” – Consumer Association of Penang education officer N.V. Subbarrow
“She did so much for the country’s education. She was serious, reliable and knew her stuff. A caring and an endearing person with deep dedication and love for her work. She reported with great integrity and set a benchmark for reporting on education matters. The Star’s good work on education, is appreciated. She would correct my articles to make sure that they were accurate and well-phrased. We will miss her.” – Bulbir Singh
“Karen has left a legacy of quality. I always look forward to reading education articles in The Star and Sunday Star.” – Dr Arzmi Yaacob
“I broke down when I read about her passing. I have neither seen nor spoken to her. I only communicate with her through emails for the letters I send to StarEdu – my favourite section in Sunday Star. I learnt so much from her. Like a teacher, she never got tired of guiding me, always encouraging me to write more. When I grow up, I want to be like her.” – Methodist Girls’ School Ipoh Perak student Lakshmita Vigneswaran
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