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Notre Dame community remembers Karabo Moleah

| Monday, April 11, 2016

Karabo Moleah had a way of making others feel special, third-year law student Caroline Shoemaker said.

“You didn’t have to try to fit this prestigious law school mold with Karabo,” she said. “He celebrated all of our differences. He loved what made us different, and he made us love our differences too.

“I was unapologetically me when I was with him. We were all unapologetically ourselves when we were with Karabo.”

Mosupatsela Karabo V. Moleah, 26, died March 31 in Philadelphia. Moleah was a third-year law student participating in Notre Dame Law School’s Washington program this semester.

Moleah was born in Delaware, but moved to South Africa — his parents’ homeland — when he was five years old. At age 10, Moleah’s family moved to Austria, where his father was appointed South Africa’s ambassador. Moleah later returned to South Africa to attend boarding school and then earned his undergraduate degree in criminal justice at Temple University.

“Karabo, I am confident to say, was the most interesting person in all of Notre Dame,” third-year law student Eddy Panchernikov said at a reception following a memorial Mass held in Moleah’s honor last Tuesday.

“At this point, I am not even sure I have his full story right — and that’s his fault. He would never talk about himself, that was just who he was,” Panchernikov said. “When you were with him it was always about you, he wanted to know you, about your background, why you thought the way you thought, why you were saying the things you were saying.”

Mack Watson, a third-year law student and friend of Moleah’s, said Moleah was a gifted speaker and communicator, who loved to challenge others’ positions and be challenged himself.

“He spoke in a manner that resembled poetic verse, weaving legal concepts together with black colloquialisms and frequent analogies to structure not an argument — but a truism — on issues such as history, race, sex, violence, men, women, politics and religion. He lacked any sort of fear of the so-called offensive but rather embraced honesty fully, regardless of social stigma or consequences.”

Bruce Huber, associate professor of law, said Moleah helped create a stimulating academic environment, in and out of the classroom.

“I’m also sure that as I got to know him, I gained the privilege of speaking with a thoughtful, motivated, curious man with a remarkable background and unique outlook on life,” he said.

Moleah’s intellect surfaced in every aspect of his life, Panchernikov said.

“Karabo’s every saying, every quick quip, was a philosopher’s poem, bursting with significance and consequence, knowable only to him and revealable only at his pleasure,” he said. “Karabo’s intellect however, was matched by his humor and wit. Many times taking one of our jokes an elevating it far beyond anything we intended in terms of humor.”

Moleah took fashion seriously and always looked “swaggy,” third-year law student Colin McArthur said, which helped showcase “his individuality and magnetism — his sheer confidence, intensity and completely unique approach to everything.”

“Karabo was always memorable. Always.” McArthur said.

Moleah’s laugh was also memorable and captivating, third-year law student Courtney Laidlaw said.

“He made you feel like a million dollars,” he said. “You’d say something and he would laugh — and it was a genuine laugh. He was a pleasure to be around, always.”

Nell Newton, Joseph A. Matson Dean and professor of law, said Moleah left an indelible mark on his classmates, friends and faculty during his time at Notre Dame.

“He commanded attention in any space or classroom because of his confident demeanor, yet unlike many who stand out in a crowd, his focus was always on others,” she said. “He challenged the status quo in a way that made you listen, whether you were a classmate or the dean of the law school.”

Jimmy Gurulé, a professor of law who taught Moleah’s first-year criminal law class, said he thinks Moleah would have made a great impact on the justice system.

“He would have brought a unique perspective and diverse life experiences to the practice of criminal law,” he said. “His guiding light would have been the pursuit of justice. In the process, he would have touched and uplifted the lives of everyone with whom he came into contact, just the way he did at Notre Dame.”

Newton said Moleah’s fellow students have said after talking to him, they often felt “lighter and better about themselves and their place in the world.”

“He had an aura of friendly energy — like a gravitational field pulling others into his orbit,” Watson said.

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About Katie Galioto

Katie, the Observer's current Managing Editor, is a senior majoring in political science, with minors in Business Economics and Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She's a former Walsh Hall resident who now lives off campus and hails from Chanhassen, Minnesota. Follow her on Twitter @katiegalioto.

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