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“He was just a really giving, kind, gentle person:” Madison College Professor Kou Her Remembered For His Kindness


The greater Madson community and colleagues at Madison College are mourning the death of longtime Madison College Professor Kou Her over the weekend. Her drowned in the Wisconsin River as he attempted to rescue his three children, all under the age of nine. 

“It’s a very difficult time for all of us because we loved Kou and admired him as a colleague and considered him to be a close friend,” Chris Vandall, Dean of the School of Academic Advancement at Madison College, tells Madison365.  “He supported every learner at Madison College that he came into contact in any way that he could. He was just a really giving, kind, gentle person.”

Officials say Her’s three children were wearing life jackets when they swam out too far on the Wisconsin River, when Her swam out to try to bring them in. The children and Her’s wife were able to return safely. Unfortunately, Her never resurfaced.

“He often talked about his wife and three children. Family was very, very important to Kou,” Vandall says. “It doesn’t come as a surprise that he responded like he did when his children were in peril.”

Boaters found Her’s body Sunday morning south of Mazomanie, hours before dive teams were planning to head back into the water to search for him.

Her, 53, was a full-time faculty member in Madison College’s School of Academic Advancement for 29 years.

Kou Her

“I’ve been at the college for 11 years and I’ve known Kou for that period of time. He has been at the college for almost 29 years,” says Vandall, who was Her’s supervisor at Madison College. “For most of that time, he had been a teacher in our high school completion GED program. He’s just the kind of person who is consistently nice and kind to everybody that he engages with.

“Kou had a profound impact on all of the students that he served and his colleagues,” he adds. “I wish I would have even more opportunities to get to know him even closer. “

Her was very involved in the local Hmong community, too, helping to host and plan the Hmong New Year event.  

“Kou was always volunteering to support his community and spending time working in the Hmong community,” Vandall says. 

In lieu of flowers, Her’s family is asking that donations be made to the Kou Her Children’s Memorial Fund at Summit Credit Union. Her leaves behind three children under the age of 9.

Visitations for Kou Her will be held at Gunderson Funeral Home, 1150 Park St. in Oregon on Friday, July 19, 3-5 p.m. and Saturday, July 20, 9-10 a.m. Funeral services will be held Friday, July 19 from 6-9 p.m. and Saturday, July 20, 10-11:30 a.m.

Burial service will be held Saturday, July 20, 12:30 p.m., at Highland Memorial Gardens, 3054 County Road BB, Madison.

 “He is going to be deeply missed by everyone. It’s been a hard couple of days for everybody who knows him,” Vandall says. “I think at this point everybody just wants to rally around his family and his children and his wife and his friends and do whatever we can to get through this hard time.”