Middlebury grad recalled as gifted writer
MIDDLEBURY — David Bain recalled his friend and former Middlebury College pupil as an exceptional writer, always inquisitive and a champion of the underdog.
So Bain was shocked this week when he learned that Matthew Power had died from heat stroke while on a writing assignment walking the Nile in Uganda. He was 39.
A native of Cornwall, Power took two writing courses from Bain while a student at Middlebury. He graduated in 1996.
“We were good friends for all of the years since and this is a real devastating loss,” Bain said Thursday.
Bain, a senior lecturer at Middlebury, said the last time he saw Power was in August at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.
He said he would stay in touch with Power every couple of weeks on Facebook.
For a young writer, Bain said Power lived an extraordinary life with a clip file of stories that would span the entire career of most journalists.
His reporting for publications including Harper’s Magazine, GQ, and The New York Times took him to distant places and on dangerous assignments, Bain recalled.
“Matt just survived so many things,” Bain said. “He dodged bullets in Afghanistan, he talked back to the Taliban, he followed drug runners and all sorts of illegal people.”
Another assignment took Power to the Philippines, where he reported on the collapse of a gigantic garbage dump swept away by rains that devastated a shanty town, killing hundreds, Bain said.
He said Power’s friends would often worry for his safety each time he embarked on another adventure.
“It’s so sad to think of the loss of that voice and that generosity that he had,” Bain said, “and such a sad loss for his wife (Jessica), who is also a writer.”
During his 27 years teaching at Middlebury, Bain said Power was among the students that stood out.
“Matt was curious about everything and he was enthusiastic about everything,” Bain said. “He just had one of the most positive spirits you could see as a human being and he was able to translate that onto the page.”
He also said Power had a great sense of humor and irony and “a very large sympathy for the underdog.”
His articles appeared in annual anthologies including “Best American Travel Writing” and “Best American Spiritual Writing.” He was also a three-time finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists in international reporting. .
Bain recalled making a notation at the bottom of one writing assignment that Power never forgot. “On the bottom of it I said it strikes me that you could be doing this for a living, if you played your cards right.”
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