Joe Mark hired many people during his time as Vermont State University Castleton’s academic dean, but there’s one applicant that still stands out: Honoree Fleming.
“I probably thought it was too good to be true,” Mark said. “Her credentials were just at the top of the stack, by far.”
A lifelong academic, Fleming joined Castleton in the early 2000s, eventually becoming the Dean of Education.
In the decade or so she spent there, coworkers say she was a beloved fixture of the campus.
“She was my closest confidant and colleague,” Mark said. “She could be a great, even fierce champion of students and their needs. She’s the kind of person who was so ethical that she didn’t hesitate to speak truth to power.”
The 77-year-old was shot dead Thursday while walking on the D&H Rail Trail. State police say her cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head. They’re calling her death a homicide.
Even after their retirements in 2012, Mark and Fleming remained close. A few days before Fleming’s death, they shared podcast recommendations over email. And just hours before Fleming’s body was found, Mark walked the same section of the Rail Trail that Fleming would die on.
“I had heard various rumors that were circulating about who the victim was and who the perpetrator was,” Mark explained. “But it never dawned on me that it might be somebody that I knew, much less Honoree. It was just dumbfounding. I mean, I was speechless.”
Kelley Beckwith, Castleton’s current vice president of student success, says the university is reeling from Fleming’s death.
“I have heard from students, from faculty, from staff as soon as the news broke yesterday, they’re just crushed,” Beckwith said. “We will just miss her. She was a wonderful member of our community.”
Fleming’s passion for education aside, Beckwith says family was the most important thing to Fleming. She leaves behind a husband and son.