Student Filmmaker Mourned

Correction: This article incorrectly stated Hess’s film “Lethe” won an editing award at last year’s Media Collision. It was his documentary “Sub” that received the award.

Rodman Hess, a senior contemporary arts student, passed away on Thursday, April 18 after a long illness. He was 23 years old.

Hess, of Woodbury Heights, started at Ramapo in 2008 as a communication arts major with a minor in creative writing. After taking last semester off, he planned to come back this semester to complete his senior project.

“We were all excited to see what he was going to make,” assistant professor of media writing Tobin Addington said.

Hess enjoyed film, playing guitar and writing music. According to his professors, Rod-as he was nicknamed-was a very talented filmmaker.

“Rod was an incredibly talented filmmaker, with a dedication to his craft, and a great understanding of film,” said Neel Scott, assistant professor of digital filmmaking. “Moreover, though, he was just a kind, strong, funny guy, a pleasure to be around, brimming with life, curiosity and integrity.”

At last year’s Media Collision, Hess’s documentary on Ramapo’s swim team “Sub” won the editing award, which is given out by New York filmmaking professionals. Addington said the award will be renamed the Rod Hess Memorial Achievement in Editing in Hess’s honor.

One of Hess’ friends and classmates, senior Lindsay Lewandowski, called another of Hess’s films, “Lethe,” “one of the greatest films that … anyone at this school has ever created.”

Lewandowski worked as a crew member for Hess on his film and was also in several upper-level classes with him.

“He thought outside the box. He was very brilliant, creative and talented,” she said. “He was a great guy in general, too. Rod was just so real of a person; you knew what you were getting when you talked to him. He was always there for you and friendly.”

Born in Philadelphia, Hess graduated from Gateway Regional High School in 2008 and enjoyed visiting Rehoboth Beach in Delaware. He was well-respected among his classmates and well-liked by his peers.

“Rod was a caring, helpful, compassionate colleague to his peers,” Addington added. “He worked on many films and gave great feedback in class. He was universally liked and admired, and never once gave less than his best to his friends, his classwork and his films.”

Relatives and friends were able to visit the family on Tuesday, April 23 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and on Wednesday, April 24 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Smith Funeral Home, 47 Main Street in Mantua. Funeral services were held there at 11 a.m. and internment will be in Eglington Cemetery in Clarksboro.

Lewandowski went to the wake with a group of Ramapo students, where they met some of Hess’ other friends.

“His high school friends and some of his friends he has known for his entire life … were overwhelmed that so many people wanted to come and celebrate his life and say goodbye,” she added. “It was a very, very emotional day.”

Hess is survived by his parents, Barbara and Rodman; sisters, Katherine and Elizabeth; fiancé Jennifer Trabold; and many aunts, uncles and cousins.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to HEADstrong Foundation (, an organization that serves as a resource for blood cancer patients and their families; Evanfest (, at PO Box 5263, West Chester, Pa. 19380, a youth lacrosse festival that raises money for families with children suffering from life-threatening illnesses; or The Harvey Forsyth Memorial Fund ( and select Rhoads 6), at 111 Hermit Street, Philadelphia, Pa. 19127, a group dedicated to helping local cancer patients and their families.

“Rod … made a lasting impression,” Addington said. “He will be deeply, deeply missed.”

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