A big man with a personality to match, Wes Koczka will be remembered by his friends and colleagues as someone tirelessly dedicated to education.
Koczka, Thompson Rivers University's associate vice president international and CEO of global operations, died of a heart attack on the weekend while on an international mission to Europe.
Adrian Conradi, TRU's associate director international student services and study abroad, joined the university in August 2010 — just three months after Koczka. The two got to know each other quite well during the last couple of years.
"I loved him as a boss. He had a directness and an honesty about him," Conradi said Tuesday.
When Koczka asked an employee to do something via email, it simply read For your action. If you did a good job, the text stated Job well done team, he said.
"He was famous for emails that almost didn't quite qualify as a sentence," said Conradi. "He did everything that way. He didn't mess around."
Koczka dedicated his life to education, teaching students from kindergarten on up, said Conradi. He was the former dean of continuing studies at the University of Victoria and has a doctorate in education.
He recently developed a passion for international education and became enthusiastic about internationalizing campuses, said Conradi. During the last couple of weeks Koczka carried a document about the concept with him everywhere.
"He would look at you and ask 'Have you read this yet?' We'd all read it here, but you could sense his passion for what we are doing," said Conradi.
Koczka believed a university needed to do more than bring international students to campus. He thought a university should prepare everyone and everything that would make international students successful.
"In other words, you're not just seeing dollar signs with international students. You're building something that's sustainable," said Conradi.
In an email, TRU president Alan Shaver called Koczka a visionary who was totally committed to internationalization, which he saw as a way to bring people together.
He and Koczka frequently travelled together for work. Shaver said Koczka had charm, humour and a gentle way with people.
"I enjoyed seeing him in action, and I learned a lot," he said.
A big, tall man, Koczka was easily recognizable in his suit as he made his daily trip to Tim Hortons for a coffee and box or two of Timbits for his staff.
Conradi said Koczka always had time to chat with the students who worked there, and was well liked.
Koczka's wife, daughter and two sons live in Victoria. One of his boys was recently accepted to the interview process for medical school, which made him very proud, said Conradi.
"You could hear the pride in his voice when he talked about his children," he said.