An icon has left us

It is with a sad heart that these words are written. An icon has left us. Karin Barreth Hersom worked at Kaospilot for 20 years. From 1991 up until 2011. Coming on board only a few months after the school opened its doors, she was instrumental in framing and shaping the school.

It is virtually impossible to overstate what she gave and what she meant to the school. If Uffe very much represented the idea, the mind and direction – Karin was the heart and soul of the institution. From the first day of the students’ arrival to saying goodbye to them at the graduation ceremony. From remembering the friends that helped us in those early formative years to welcoming the new friends, popping in from the street just wanting to check out what we were all about.

Karin was a no-nonsense, in-your-face type of person. Her bullshit detector was famous. Her integrity was unparalleled. She called for authenticity, nerve, courage and honesty. Essentially by being herself. She engaged in the drama of our individual and collective lives. Leaving a mark that will not be forgotten.

I provide “mental hygiene” as she called it – soothing troubled souls and minds.

I met her for the first time in 1995 as a student. A fierce and strong woman, that showed so much love and kindness to us all. Her formal role at Kaospilot was a bit of a mystery to me back then, and maintained so even when we worked together. Her formal title – secretary – is probably the worst description of what she actually did and meant. She often referred to herself as: ““I’m First Deputy Minister of Interior and I do the dishes.” She had a strong sense of discipline (referring to her “German gene”) and asked of you to follow through, whatever you set in motion. She was the student and staff counsellor if there ever was one. I provide “mental hygiene” as she called it – soothing troubled souls and minds.

To me she was a teacher, without providing lectures. She was a colleague, that stood by in thick and thin. She was a mentor, never afraid to speak her mind.

She was a great dinner companion. You were lucky if you had her at your table. The discussions could go in many different directions and be many things. All but one: They were never boring. Perhaps it had to do with her curiosity and willingness for adventure. She moved swiftly from the beaches and railroads of Japan, to a one-on-one in a shabby bar in Shanghai 0500 in the morning, to coffee at the terrace in Mejlgade. Always interested. And if you were not answering up to her standards she would leave.

It feels like she always did what she wanted to do. She lived life to the fullest. Made the best out of what was. I can’t remember she ever offered an excuse or an apology.

As a leader at our institution she embodied two qualities I think are essential for leaders: To have time, and to have resources.

As a leader at our institution she embodied two qualities I think are essential for leaders: To have time, and to have resources. Why do all graduates from Kaospilot have a personal connection to Karin? For me the short answer is that she always had time. Or perhaps more accurately, she made time. For a talk, for a hug. For a smile, and a kick in the balls. Kaospilot has never been a rich institution, but I think for many of us it often felt rich. As she would say: You are never too poor for cava and fresh flowers. A rule of thumb for any organisation or life.

Karin leaves behind her children, family and many, many friends. All of us, grateful for the moments spent in her presence.

Christer

Principal at Kaospilot

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