Brian Dassler could rattle eight lines of poetry in 30 seconds.
He had the poem “Good Enough,” often recited at the leadership camps he attended, memorized as a teenager.
Nearly two decades later, Dassler carried its message with him: “Good enough” was never enough.
Dassler used the philosophy to help fellow Gators, inspire students at a Fort Lauderdale school and start a charter school for residents of New Orleans devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
Dassler, a three-time UF graduate with a bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degree, died Tuesday from a blood clot in his lung, called a pulmonary embolism, said Chuck Vones, Dassler’s cousin. Dassler was 38 years old.
Emma Humphries, who saw herself as one of Dassler’s mentees since they met in 1999, still pictures him reciting the final lines of that poem: “Good enough is neither.”
“Brian was good, and Brian was enough, but Brian would not let ‘good enough’ define his life,” Humphries said. “Florida’s perfect son, that’s what he was.”
A service for Dassler will likely be held at UF, along with one at Tallahassee.
After graduating, Dassler taught at an inner-city Fort Lauderdale high school.
Teddy Joseph remembers Brian assigning his class to read “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings,” by Maya Angelou.
Joseph didn’t take the assignment seriously at the time, but in the wake of Dassler’s death, he said he wants to give the book another chance.
Joseph said Dassler pushed him to pursue college as he received one rejection after another.
Dassler won the Broward County Teacher of the Year award for his time at the school.
Today, Joseph runs his own personal training center and graduated from the University of West Florida. He looks back fondly at Brian’s impact on his life.
“He was very, very important in my life,” Joseph said. “He still is.”
Dassler’s desire to help others led him to New Orleans.
In 2010, Dassler started KIPP Renaissance, a charter school for high schoolers, which now helps 450 students.
Florida’s Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart said in a statement that Dassler couldn’t turn his back on those suffering after Hurricane Katrina.
“He inspired others to go the extra mile and believe they, too, could make a difference,” Stewart said.
When Linda Eldridge walks her miniature schnauzer Susie at night, she thinks through her day.
On Wednesday, she thought about Dassler.
She thought about how he stayed in touch after leaving her doctoral program, where she was the chairperson of his dissertation committee.
“I’ll miss ... hearing from him and being aware of what he’s up to,” Eldridge said. “I think the world was his future.”
To honor Dassler, UF’s College of Education along with Leadership Florida, where Dassler was a counselor, will start a memorial scholarship, Eldridge said.
“He was so bright, and so good at what he did,” she said. “It is such a sad loss for all of Florida.”
The funeral service for Brian will be Friday at 3 p.m. at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Tallahassee. A memorial service will be held at a location to be determined in South Florida on April 29.
Contact Romy Ellenbogen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @romyellenbogen