Don Reiber, director of media and associate professor of communications at the University of Toledo, died unexpectedly in his house Sunday morning. Reiber was 68 and had been working with UT for 38 years at the time of his death. His wife, Pat Reiber, told The Blade he likely had a heart attack.
Though it was very recent, the effects of his death have already been felt throughout campus, especially by John Eidemiller, media producer for the University of Toledo’s communications department.
Less than 24 hours after receiving the news, Eidemiller found himself driving hastily between Rocket Hall and the Glass Bowl stadium, talking frantically into a cell phone trying to find three missing cameras the department lost track of after Don’s death.
“We’re hanging on,” Eidemiller said heavily into the phone.
Without any labels on the equipment dispersed on campus, keeping tabs on the many projects and events held here at UT seemed an impossible task, Eidemiller said. An impossible task for anyone but Don Reiber.
Reiber was one of the key people who organized video coverage of events on campus and was so busy with both teaching and media coverage that he rarely wrote anything down or labeled any equipment, Eidemiller said.
“That’s why me and Don got along,” said Tyler Mattson, a seventh-year communication major with a bachelor’s degree in pharmaceutical science who worked and had class with Reiber. “He knew what everything was in his department without writing it down. He’d never ask for help, but he was always willing to help.”
Standing in the Glass Bowl and hoping the object of their search was behind the door in front of them, Eidemiller and Mattson tried unlabeled key after unlabeled key. They had good humor despite their grief.
“Don literally kept it from hitting the fan,” Mattson said. “And the only place the records exist was in his head, he was too busy to write it all down.”
Mattson wasn’t the only person Reiber had an immense impact on during his life. After having Reiber as a professor in 1997, Eidemiller said Reiber’s dedication to the job was so immense that he would drop anything for his students.
“When I am having dinner with my family I don’t answer my phone. Don would have answered his phone and dropped anything to come over here,” Eidemiller said while holding back tears. “It’s just the type of person he was.”
He was a true expert in his field, said Meagan Dietz, a third-year communication and film major who worked alongside Reiber.
“He loved when you asked questions and he was so excited to tell you about everything, even if you couldn’t remember it,” Dietz said.
Damarius Sims, a third-year communication major, said Reiber truly was an inspiration and an encouraging force to anyone who took the time to utilize his skills.
“He really couldn’t be compared to any other professor on campus,” Sims said, “He had so much experience and he was always helpful. Any questions you had he was willing to answer. He was just really committed to all of his students.”
Not only did Reiber have an immense effect on UT, but also just the people he encountered in everyday life, said Eidemiller. One of these people was a grocery store worker who remembered Don from his regular visits to the store.
“A couple times a week Don would come over and buy a steak from her for his wife. She had one set aside, and yesterday Don never came, and she came to the vigil,” Eidemiller said, referring to the informal candlelit ceremony which several students, faculty, staff and community members held Sunday night on the front steps of the Student Union. “She only knew Don from that interaction that she had a couple times a week but the fact that here’s somebody that he just saw in a store and they were so moved by his kindness and drawn to his personality that he had that much of an effect on them. It’s just who he was.”
Reiber’s family requested not to have a public visitation. UT said a “celebration of his life and legacy will be held at a later date.” The family told UT they will use memorial donations sent to the University of Toledo Foundation to start a scholarship fund for broadcast communication students.