I thought it was a joke.
A story appeared on a friend’s timeline today. A post with a photo of a guy in a plaid jacket. Who looked like our former college instructor. Arrested for robbery. A few jokes were exchanged. Then, the mood changed. We realized this wasn’t fake news. The *CreComm world was in shock.
That was our former college instructor. Countless media outlets confirmed: Stephen Vogelsang charged with theft.
Steve. Creative Communications Steve. Superman Sticker Steve.
Steve is not a criminal.
Yes, Vogelsang was charged on Oct. 21, 2017 in connection with two thefts in Alberta. Yes, Vogelsang allegedly demanded money from two financial institutions. I don’t live in a fairy tale world, and I was forced to accept reality.
But Steve isn’t a criminal. Allegedly, he robbed two banks. Allegedly, he demanded money. Allegedly without wearing a mask. Allegedly, allegedly … words we’re taught to use in Creative Communications to avoid slander and defamation of character.
But this is Steve. Who was one of the most approachable instructors at Red River College. “Make an appointment” didn’t apply with Steve. He had an open door policy, or he’d talk to you in the hallway, edit suite. Wherever. He was devoted to the student CreComms. And his CreComm family.
Steve announced his retirement from CreComm in 2011, the day before our thesis presentations. He was my advisor. As my presentation inched towards the allotted ten-minute mark, I joked with Steve in the audience. Saying I’d miss our weekly meetings and hearing – as I mocked his voice – “Karatchuk, I’m concerned. You have that frowny face.”
Steve was respected and liked, and dare I say loved – especially by his students. He knew how to calm us down, build us up, and cheer us on. Hoards of CreComms owe the start of their careers to him. Because a reference from Steve Vogelsang was like the last golden ticket.
Six days before the alleged incident in Alberta, I messaged Steve for career advice. Yes. Six years after graduation, I still message him. Because I value his opinion. As do countless other CreCommers. Steve is someone we trust and value. These allegations don’t change how I feel.
One of Steve’s famous lines was, “Figure it out.” As Sports Journalism students, we covered a basketball game with simple instructions: “Go to the game, and figure it out.”
Those words apply today. CreComms around the world are trying to figure this out. Trying to make sense of the allegations against Steve. Why would Steve allegedly commit theft. What was Steve doing in Alberta. But only Steve has those answers.
But Steve wasn’t wearing a mask. He knew there’d be security cameras. In one frame, he seems to allegedly look into the camera.
No one was hurt or assaulted. This incident doesn’t make Steve a bad person. He made a bad decision.
But why without a mask?
Masks are a façade. We wear them to fool people into believing our lives are a Jolly Rancher Jungle Gym. But it’s really a Gummy Worm Swamp. We pretend our lives are awesome and wonderful. We’re fine. But we’re teetering on the brink and we’re up a creek without a paddle as the saying goes.
We have a breaking point. And the mask falls off, and we do something completely out of character. This was out of character for Steve.
I believe Steve’s mask fell off awhile ago. And we didn’t notice, because he seemed fine.
Clearly, we were wrong.
*CreComm – An Alumni or student enrolled in the Creative Communications program at Red River College in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.