Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Shooting victim's name misspelled on Tech memorial

Jocelyne Couture-Nowak's husband said officials have apologized and that it will be corrected.

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BLACKSBURG -- The last name of one of the April 16 shooting victims is misspelled on the memorial that Virginia Tech unveiled Sunday.

Jocelyne Couture-Nowak, who was teaching French in Norris Hall when the attack took place, was mistakenly carved into the stone as "Courture-Nowak."

Couture-Nowak's husband, Jerzy Nowak, who heads Tech's horticulture department, said officials apologized to him and plan to correct the memorial.

"I feel sorry for them actually," Nowak said. "It's another hassle, and it's a rather difficult name to spell. I wish it was proofread before. It's not upsetting. It's not unusual. Both my wife's and my name have been misspelled so many times, [though] never on a stone. They will fix it, and they were very apologetic."

Richard Shryock, who head's Tech's foreign languages and literatures department, where Couture-Nowak was on the faculty, said he was unhappy about the mistake for the sake of his former colleague's family but also said, "We're all human."

"They made a mistake," Shryock said. "They're going to fix it, and that's the way it should be."

It was not immediately clear how the mistake occurred.

Nowak, who said the matter should not be blown out of proportion, quipped that "I think the challenge was maybe the person who was carving had a little bit of dyslexia."

But even though university spokesman Mark Owczarski said he could not pinpoint where in the chain of people the mistake took place, he ruled out the stonemason.

"He was given the incorrect name," Owczarski said.

Owczarski said officials were aware of the mistake Sunday and "steps are being taken to get the right name out there."

The correction should be made "any day now" he said.

Couture-Nowak's name is spelled correctly in the section of Tech's Web site devoted to the victims and appeared correctly in the school's memorial publications.

The memorial that was dedicated Sunday is a semicircle of inscribed stones on Tech's Drillfield in front of Burruss Hall. It replaced a similar, informal memorial, made of plain stones, that was laid in the hours after the shootings. Flowers and a votive candle lay next to Couture-Nowak's stone Tuesday.

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