On Nov. 16, University of Central Florida students gathered with faculty to remember the life of former UCF journalism student and freelance journalist Steven Sotloff.
Steven’s parents Arthur and Shirley Sotloff gathered in an auditorium at UCF to speak to students about their son and the legacy he leaves behind, inspiring young journalists all over the world.
Steven Joel Sotloff was only 31 years old when he was murdered on camera by Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) after being held captive for over 13 months.
Sotloff is remembered for his heroic acts of journalism through his curiosity, commitment and most importantly, courage.
Courage is the exact term to describe Arthur and Shirley who sat in front of journalism students from Professor Rick Brunson’s Principles of Journalism class and faculty members to share fond memories of their late son and his passion for journalism.
“His curiosity and love for people had no bounds,” Shirley said of her son.
Steven attended UCF from 2002 to 2004 where he worked his way up through the publication Central Florida Future to become their senior staff writer and had several stories, most about politics, make the front page.
After his time at UCF, according to his father, Steven went on a weeklong trip to Israel through the organization called Birthright for young Jewish adults wishing to visit Israel. When he finished the trip, he decided to complete his education there, at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya College. He received his bachelor’s in Government, Counter Terrorism and Homeland Security. With his degrees he was also awarded Cum Laude honors.
From there on, Steven jump-started his career working for TIME Magazine, the Christian Science Monitor and World Affairs Journal. As his father perfectly stated, Steven was “compelled to be the voice of the voiceless and report to the world what he had seen.”
Professor Brunson introduced Steven’s parents with a warm welcome and shared a few lines from a tribute to Steven he had written for the UCF Forum, which was later picked up by the Huffington Post.
“Steven Sotloff dedicated himself to bearing and shedding light, especially in dark corners of the world torn by war and riven by age-old hatreds and intractable, systematic poverty,” Brunson read.
Shirley then stood in front of the audience and began to speak about Steven, how kind, intelligent and well liked he was. She also spoke of his passion for reporting news internationally.
“He was dedicated to working in those areas of the world where free speech was limited or even harshly prevented. Steven showed us that no matter who you are or where you come from, if you listen and step out of your comfort zone, you will learn, you will grow, and you will experience life through a newer, larger lens,” she said.
Shirley ended by speaking about the scholarship fund she and her husband started a year ago in his name.
“Everyone has two lives. The second one begins when you realize you have only one.” These words written by Steven in a letter to his parents is what inspired them to start the 2Lives Steven Joel Sotloff Memorial Foundation, a scholarship that has been set up to raise money for aspiring young journalists.
Funds have provided airfare for journalists traveling to Ireland with training as part of a new global initiative for freelance reporters to help them receive first aid courses, health insurance policies and risk assessment skills.
Board Member of the fund and close family friend Frank Urrutia was sitting by the Sotloffs’ side and not only spoke of the fund but also stated although he wasn’t a dear friend of Steven’s, he said Steven was, “a big inspiration to me because he always demonstrated the characteristics that make this school very special: curiosity, courage, and commitment.”
“It was definitely inspirational, I know there was a lot of mention of death, life, and rebirth but I think its more important to know that there’s an impact today and now, on the people who are living here. For people like me going into journalism, it literally gives us the push to keep going and keep doing this,” journalism student Nicole Garcia said on how she felt hearing the Sotloffs’ speak.
For more information on the 2Lives Steven Joel Sotloff Memorial Foundation, visit the official website.