The Austin College community and more than 200 donors have rallied around two of the school’s professors whose apartments were destroyed in a fire last week, raising more than $12,000 for their recovery and relocation.
AC Professor of English Roger Platizky and Katy Williams, assistant director of the school’s Academic Skills Center, were displaced after an early morning fire at the Post Oak Crossing Apartments destroyed their building and apartments on May 2. Sherman Fire-Rescue officials said no one was injured in the accidental fire, but eight units were destroyed and another eight people were displaced.
“When you go through a fire you feel very exposed,” Platizky said. “But people are all going out of their way to be so nice to us.”
Platizky said he was able to recover only a few of his belongings including his cat, which was unharmed, a painting and a few of his patio plants. Williams could not be reach for an interview Wednesday, but Platizky said Williams lost everything in the fire. Platizky commended his colleague’s quick thinking during the unfolding emergency.
“She’s the one who knocked on everybody’s doors first and tried to get us all out,” Platizky said.
Immediately after the fire, AC’s Academic Skills Center established a crowdfunding page to raise recovery funds for Williams and Platizky. Within 24 hours, the campaign exceeded its initial fundraising goal of $5,000 and within a week the total collection had climbed to $12,750. Platizky said he has received numerous gifts and letters from students and alumni. Austin College has allowed him to stay in Duck Hall, which is typically reserved for special visitors or guests of the school, as he gets back on his feet.
“There’s a lot of work to do and I’m trying to juggle all that and concentrate on my academic work,” Platizky said, alluding to the end of the semester and the upcoming graduation ceremonies. “It’s good because it’s familiar and I feel a sense of connection here. But, also, I’ve had to get storage units, I’ll have to change my address and I have to talk to insurers. There’s a lot to do.”
Platizky said he intends to begin the search for a new apartment soon and will only remain there for a short time. He said he plans to retire from AC next year, after three decades of teaching at the school.
“People here have always treated me very kindly, but I’ve never felt so overwhelmed. There’s just been this wave of extreme kindness — almost like people are trying to embrace you,” Platizky said. “People have been calling, writing, sitting with me at lunch, talking to me and checking up on me. It’s just amazing.”