Remembering Seamus Kelters: Pioneering Trauma Journalist

By Elana Newman

This is the kind of asset Seamus Kelters was to the Dart Center: As an Ochberg Fellow and Senior Fellow, he fostered a collegial atmosphere, with unwavering dedication to creating the best journalism possible.  His humor and righteous indignation- his willingness to argue and analyze each problem and concern - were steadfast. He had the rare combination of an analytic mind and a compassionate heart.  He was always willing to help colleagues improve their stories, angles, and sources as well as treat his own sources and the people he covered with profound dignity.

In my own case, Seamus helped improve my research. He asked the difficult questions without apology but did it with generous curiosity, good will, and integrity.  As a Dart Center strategic adviser he was a rational problem solver- laying out points of agreement, points of disagreement, and points where he was skeptical that consensus could be reached. In an email on October 8, 2008, he wrote, “So - as the guy said when the only public restroom in Belfast was bombed - where do we go now?” One could not resist confiding and trusting Seamus. His gift for writing was not only in the professional; his off the cuff emails and remarks were pure works of linguistic beauty.

Despite Seamus’ professional contributions, I most treasured our personal conversations – about family, illness, grief, faith, and resilience.  Several years ago, we both went through a period of recovery from physical injury at the same time, sharing our experiences with each other in ways that were humbling, reassuring, funny, and honest.  Just this summer, when he was weak and struggling with his own cancer and treatments, he reached out to me during a period of personal grief – being generous in ways that touched me to my core; I reread those emails often for solace, humor, caring and the wisdom in them. I know I am not alone in receiving and cherishing, and the benefits of his generosity, kindness and astuteness– whether professionally or personally. He will be missed.