By Madeline Dow
Alumna of San Francisco State
Mother of Humboldt State and CSU East Bay Alumni
Update: Travis McKinley Dow Memorial Scholarship information and application available through the Humboldt Area Foundation. The scholarship supports students bound for Humboldt State University pursuing Theatre, Film, Art or Dance.
On some level, as parents we hope our child’s life will reflect the values and interests we share with them. Losing a child reverses this desire. The parent now carries the legacy, building on the passions of the child. In my case, after losing my son, Travis, to cancer on his 41st birthday, I‘ve been left with the golden legacy of his music.
In the midst of my grief, I have come to believe that he would want me to keep his great life passions alive: his love of music, performance, nature and adventure. Humboldt State embodied these passions.
When Travis graduated from high school, he was reluctant to start college right away. “I want to look at the world from a different spot, see what’s out there firsthand. I can’t see a flower through the window of an airplane.” With our encouragement, Travis packed his dog and guitar into his dad’s rough and tumble pickup and traveled the country. He wanted to experience life along a different path than most of his classmates who chose college first.
After returning home from this journey of both inward and outer exploration, Travis decided it was time to go to college. We explored many options but Humboldt State stood out above the rest. “I love it there, Mom… the beauty of the Redwoods, the mountains, fresh air, the ocean and, even the fog. “
Travis loved the intimate campus environment as well – from the students, faculty and staff to his hangout outside Theatre Arts, the quad where the “Humboldt Ship” stands. This stone and wood fired sculpture wall opens onto a grassy space surrounded by towering redwoods overlooking the ocean. It captures the magic of HSU.
A Theater Arts major and singer songwriter, Travis would head up the coast to Moonstone Beach whenever he needed a little extra inspiration. He was heartened by the hometown warmth of Arcata Town Square, historic Hotel Arcata, and awed by the magnificent trees in adjacent Redwood Park. It was here that he formed his first band, The River with his college roommate, began his music career at the Jambalaya and fell in love with his future wife Lori.
After graduation, Travis’ career took him to San Francisco, Paris, Chicago, Portland, and finally to Nashville. His inspiration, heart and soul, was always Humboldt, where he often returned. He credited the university for his stage presence and confidence. His soulful music carried with it the emotion of the fog and ocean at Moonstone and the Redwoods. He wrote hundreds of songs, frequently invoking the personal connections and social causes he explored at Humboldt State.
Years later, we often journeyed together from our home in the Bay Area to HSU and Moonstone Beach. I have returned since his passing, virtually spreading his ashes where he always found his “home” and peace in life.
Travis now has a scholarship in his name for a Theater Arts/Music student attending Humboldt State. He would want to provide an opportunity for other students to have the same experience he did : to be inspired by his music, his story and his passion to find their own creativity and somehow make the world a better place.
Older brother Christopher was moved by Travis’ convictions and returned to CSU East Bay for his teaching credential. He wanted to work in a field that provided greater ripples in the lives of others.
I often hear Trav’s music in my heart. What comes gently to mind as I write are some words from a song Travis wrote at Humboldt State.
Someone wrote a song about humanity.
Imagine it’s not just a dream,
This world I see…
Then tears of joy we wept…
Then just a silence.
And his song is all that’s left.
Hear my song.
Editor’s note: A sample of Travis’ work is found here. This song was written, performed and recorded by Travis at HSU. More of his music is on ReverbNation, Spotify, U- tube, and OurStage. For information on the scholarship contact Madeline at firstname.lastname@example.org or the Humboldt Area Foundation.