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Stetson Professor Monique Forte’s Death Attributed to Cocaine Abuse

| September 2, 2010

professor monique forte of stetson university death cocaine

Two weeks before her death, Monique Forte had celebrated the end of another year by skydiving with many of her students.

Two weeks after being awarded Stetson University’s annual excellence in teaching award (and jumping out of a plane with a group of sky-diving students on dares), Monique Forte, a 43-year-old professor of business administration and one of the university’s most beloved and respected mentors, died at her home in DeLand. Her death, early the morning of May 22, was attributed to respiratory failure at the time.

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An autopsy report released by the Volusia County Medical Examiner’s office on Sept. 1 ascribed Forte’s death to a ruptured aorta resulting from cocaine abuse. A Volusia County Sheriff’s Office investigation revealed that Forte had been addicted to cocaine going back to the late 1980s, when a friend tried to intervene to get her help. In the days leading up to her death, she had been under growing pressure, stressing over the demands of an accreditation report she was working on for the university and with caring for her ailing mother, who had recently moved to DeLand.

Forte spent her last wakeful hours the evening of May 21 with a friend, Ellen Baldwin, who had been Forte’s student, teaching assistant and graduate assistant over the years. Baldwin described to investigators that she saw Forte consume cocaine that evening and have two vodka and cranberry drinks at around 6 p.m. At 9 p.m., Forte started having trouble breathing and was vomiting. But she would not go to the hospital. Forte was suspicious of doctors. She then went to her bad to lie down. Half an hour later, Baldwin, worried for her mentor, called Stuart Michelson, dean of the School of Business Administration at Stetson, to tell him that Forte’s workload  “was killing her,” according to a sheriff’s report relating Baldwin’s interview with an investigator.

Forte had no medical issues, Chad Bleuel, Forte’s husband, told a deputy early the next morning, but she worked in a “highly stressful environment, drank alcohol often and was a heavy smoker (one pack a day).” During the night, Bleuel noticed that his wife, who usually snored audibly, stopped doing so around 2:30 a.m., and was breathing “unusually.” At 4:20, after hearing her gasping, Bleuel found Forte unresponsive, called 911, and administered CPR. By the time Forte was taken to Florida Hospital DeLand, she had stopped breathing, and was pronounced dead at 5:28 the morning of May 22. Hospital staff indicated the presence of cocaine in Forte’s system. The sheriff’s office termed Forte’s death suspicious. An investigator’s walkthrough showed nothing at Forte’s clean and well-maintained home at 63 Fernwood Trail was found to be suspicious.

Two days later, the medical examiner told the sheriff’s investigator that a pattern of hemorrhaging along Forte’s leg and in her abdomen “could be related to an apparent aortal rupture,” what turned out to be the actual cause of her death.

The autopsy concluded that her system showed the presence of cocaine, several painkillers, two narcotics, and the anti-depressant Zoloft. Her heart was enlarged to 500 grams (the normal heart weight for someone Forte’s size would be between 184 and 395 grams). But the medical examiner saw no sign of foul play in Forte’s death. The sheriff’s office closed its investigation on Aug. 24.

Forte had served as chair of the Department of Management in the School of Business Administration from 2000 through 2005. She earned her BBA and her MBA from the University of Georgia, and her Ph.D. in Strategic Management from Florida State University.

“I miss you Boo!” her husband wrote on Forte’s Memory Book, established by the university in her name. The July 5 entry is the last in the book. “This was a tough weekend…I miss you and your wonderful father so much…I hope you have found each other.”

“You were an incredible teacher, and a great friend,” Tara Chafin wrote on June 13, reflecting the way many of Forte’s students saw her as a mentor and champion. “I enjoyed spending time with you in your office chatting about everything (usually my hatred of finance) and your mentorship.” Amy Barton wrote: “There are few teachers that you remember for years to come, few that touch your life in ways that stay with you, and she was one of them.”

“In class,” Christopher Alcantara wrote on June 3, “she captivated students with her energy, sense of humor, and charm. She was always willing to give a helping hand to anyone that needed it. Her relationship with students went beyond the common, ‘here’s my lecture… good bye’ relationship; she was a friend to us all. She embodied what is truly great about Stetson University and she will be greatly missed. Rest In Peace Monique Forte.” And from Jennifer Isenberg on May 28: “As this page loaded, my Pandora started playing ‘Imagine’ by John Lennon. How very fitting. I have truly enjoyed working with you the past three years and I truly wish we had many more to share together. You were always a pleasure to talk with and I often left our conversations wearing a smile. Your spirit lifted the spirit of the entire b-school. A loss has been felt by so many – a true testament to your dedication and passion for your life’s work. God bless you and your family.”

Forte and Her Students Skydive:

14 Responses for “Stetson Professor Monique Forte’s Death Attributed to Cocaine Abuse”

  1. Jim Guines says:

    Teachers have problems too, supposed we lived in a world where that was understood and help and prevention were availble to assist them with such problems, do you think we would have lost this wonderful teacher?

  2. says:

    a very sad story, highly educated, so much more to give in her life at that young age.

  3. Bob K says:

    This is truly a sad ending to a life that seemed to touch so many. My thoughts and prayers go to the family. Mr. Guines, we do have a facility right here in Flagler County; it’s the Vince Carter Center in Bunnell. Often though, until the person admits to him/herself they have a problem, they do not seek the help they need.

  4. NortonSmitty says:

    A sad story I’ve seen a few times. If she would have sought help, there’s no way she could have continued to keep her career rising at Stetson or maybe not even been able to teach. The stigma and hypocrisy in this society need to change. Too many good people are being destroyed because we refuse to believe it could be, and probably is, the same situation as somebody close to all of us. It really is a disease. My condolences to her family, friends and students.

  5. Haw Creek Girl says:

    Substance abuse treatment is protected like any other medical condition by HIPAA so she could have easily been protected had she sought help.

  6. Nothing is that simple says:

    You should live so long, with that fantasy. Rather than assume something is “easy” for someone, or that “protections” are so readily available-lets be REAL. Suicide Prevention Week (1800273TALK) is fast approaching. Look left, look right-right into the eyes of OUR people and HELP them. And HELP is not HIPAA or even “treatment” with a quest for a quick fix. A SYSTEM of CARE is needed in our community, including our families and close circle of friends. We need healthy people to demand this-and it would come with “insurance”-you can “insure” it will be there for YOU or YOUR FAMILY. We need more than just jobs here! Compassion and collaboration would be a fine start. And there is CPR for Suicide Prevention, google it and learn it. It may save a life!

  7. Dorothea says:

    I think some of you live in a bubble. If it doesn’t hit you in the face, it doesn’t happen. “Nothing is that simple” is right. Compassion and care are in short supply these days.

    Privacy? If you have insurance, most insurors will demand to know every detail of a substance abuse problem or, for that matter, any disease whether emotional or physical, so they, the insuror, not you and your physician, can decide how to treat your ailment. If you think HIPAA quarantees your privacy, think again. The only thing HIPPA protects you from is your concerned family members; it keeps them from knowing your condition should you be hospitalized suddenly. However, some of you need not worry about privacy, many insurance policies are now eliminating substance abuse treatment completely from their policies. Very few insurance companies give you more than one bite of the apple. If you screw up once, you’re toast.

    The number of attempted and successful suicides in Flagler County is appalling. Yet no one wants to know about it. Just sweep the problem under the rug and forget about it. Tried getting treatment for a suicidal family member? If you can find any help, it’s usually “take one of these pills every day and call me next month.” In-patient care is in short supply, and if it exists at all, is in another county where your family and friends are not nearby to give their support.

    And Bob K., we do have the Vince Carter treatment center in Bunnell. However, often there are no beds available. Call them and ask.

  8. Haw Creek Girl says:

    Unfortunately, the list of excuses for an addict that wants to keep on using is infinite.

  9. Dorothea says:

    Haw Creek Girl, yes, there may be many who do not want to stop using and make excuses for their addiction. For those that do, there is an effective treatment program of short duration, only the program is not available in the United States and not very well known here. Google “Ibogaine”. There is a huge culture of money and business built up around addiction in the US, and anyone who profits from addiction does not want to end the problem with a relatively painless, short, and effective treatment program.

  10. Haw Creek Girl says:

    I found the “Ibogaine” information very interesting. You are right that addiction profit is the new gold rush of our time. Sad, but true. It sounds as if “Ibogaine” could heal a lot of lives and perhaps even make an impact on healing our nation. Thank you for a very valuable, enlightening referral.

  11. over it says:

    medicate. rinse. repeat. cha-ching.

    “Heathcare” in this country is a misnomer. Should be called “moneycare” because that is what is really “cared for” DOLLARS. People’s health is just a byproduct of the profit.

  12. Dorothea says:

    Healthcare providers are not the only ones who profit from addiction. Think about it. If the addiction rate was lowered by a half, the country would need fewer law enforcement officers, fewer prison guards, fewer court house workers. If the profiteers from illegal drugs had less money to spend on weapons, boats, cars, and other expensive products, the retail and manufacturing industry would suffer. I’ve heard that Florida’s economy depends on illegal drug money. I’m not sure if that’s true, but it does seem possible.

  13. Melissa says:

    It hurt so bad when I heard of your death. You were so full of life, so brilliant, and had such a free spirit. You will be greatly missed although I know a part of you will live on in each and every person’s life that was fortunate enough to have been touched by you and your kind and loving soul.

  14. UGAgirl87 says:

    I went to Business school with Monique at UGA. She was inspirational then, so I can only imagine how she was as a teacher. She was one of those people that I will never forget.I have thought about her many times over the years. We had some really good times in Athens and it saddens me that her time here was cut short. I remember everything was so easy for her, because she was so smart. Here’s to the good times and you will be missed.

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