COLUMBIA — Her family was afraid they weren't going to be able to see her one last time before she died.

On Saturday, Karen Pojmann set up a GoFundMe to raise money for plane tickets. The family of Monica Hand, who taught at Stephens College and MU, flew in on Tuesday thanks to 232 people who donated thousands of dollars.

Hand died of an illness on Thursday at 63.

Pojmann started the GoFundMe page with the goal of raising $4,000 to cover the travel expenses after she and Hand's family learned Hand was critically ill. As of Friday afternoon, the page had garnered $9,590.

Hand's daughter, Michelle Hand, posted a thank you note on the GoFundMe page Friday.

"My daughter, her granddaughter, and I absolutely would not have been able to be here with her in her final days without your help," she wrote. "I would not have been able to come to terms and settle with the loss of my mother without the surrounding community here."

Kristine Somerville, Hand's colleague from Stephens College, said the community's efforts were invaluable. She said she thought it was wonderful "so that her family could see how many people in the community loved her and how many people care."

Hand was an assistant professor of English at Stephens College, a graduate teaching assistant at MU and a poet. She made herself known in Columbia’s arts community by attending art events and hosting poetry readings, among other things, Somerville said.

Hand started writing short stories at age 10 and poems in high school, and she recited poems at school and church, according to previous Missourian coverage.

Before coming to Columbia in 2012, she lived in New York and worked as a manager for the U.S. Postal Service. But Hand wanted to study poetry. 

In 2011, Hand graduated with a master's degree in poetry and poetry translation from Drew University in New Jersey. She left New York to study at MU.

Alice James Books published Hand’s first book of poetry, "me and Nina," in 2012. The book was a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award Finalist in 2013 and Foreword Book of the Year finalist in 2012. The poems in "me and Nina" focus on Hand's connection to jazz artist Nina Simone, and the majority of Hand's other poems are about African American culture.

"She was very generous with students and her colleagues," Somerville said. "She was very warm and easy to get to know. She was active and vital with working in all genres. I think she really was a talent, but also someone who was supportive of other people’s work, especially young people."

Although Hand only lived in Columbia for four years, she became a vital member of the arts community, Somerville said.

"She made a great first impression," Somerville said. "As soon as young people met her, they wanted to get to know her."

Supervising editor is Allison Colburn.

  • Enterprise reporter, spring 2016. I am a junior studying magazine design. Reach me at, or in the newsroom at 822-5720.

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