Once a Charger, Always a Charger: university honors faculty members with memorial service


Photo courtesy of Charger Bulletin/Justin Coviello.

The community gathers to commemorate faculty members, West Haven, April 5, 2023.

Life is precious; it’s perhaps the simplest fact that we will ever know and yet one which we may never truly grasp until it affects us in the most permanent way. Sadly, it is a fact that the university has had to grapple with far too often in recent months.

The university hosted a faculty memorial service this past Wednesday to celebrate the lives of seven professors who passed away in the past year. Professors Charlie Coleman, Howard Harris, Craig Parker, Anshuman Prasad, Baldev Sachdeva, Thurmon Whitley and Kento Yasuhara were honored in a joint celebration of life.

Tributes for those lost were delivered by various faculty members and students who saw them as more than just colleagues or professors; they were friends and mentors whom they looked forward to seeing.

The remembrance began with opening remarks from Nancy Savage, interim provost and vice president of academic affairs. Brett McCormick, chair of the division of humanities, delivered a verse from the Hindu Bhagavad Gita, followed by the director of the masters of public administration (MPA) program, Christy Smith, reciting the poem “We Remember Them,” which moved her and others to tears. Campus Chaplain Martin O’Connor led a prayer and blessing, offering kind words to all who were honored that night.

“They, like many of us, were governed by the cherished and familiar rhythms of academic life,” O’Connor said. “Classes to teach, papers to read, students to advise… it was a life they loved, and taught so many of us to love as well.”

Criminal justice professor Bobby McDonald and public administration professor Cynthia Conrad delivered testimonies to the character of Charlie Coleman. McDonald’s words were layered with light humor and sentimentality for his former professor which garnered a few laughs from the audience, while Conrad spoke glowingly of Coleman as a colleague, mentor and person.

“If we measure a life well lived by what we leave behind, Charlie lived a very successful life,” Conrad said. “He had a wonderful home life and he left behind two successful children… At [the University of New Haven] the scope of what he left here and his vision here is all around us, and it should endure for many years.”

Forensic science professor Tim Palmback spoke about Howard Harris. Palmback acknowledged that many in attendance might not have interacted with Harris, as he only taught at the university until 2003 and served as a professor emeritus until his death; however, he offered enough insight into Howard’s dedication to his students and his craft that it helped audience members feel like they knew him, even if just a little bit.

“He was on campus more than most faculty,” Palmback said. “He loved innovative ideas, he loved crazy ideas, he loved challenging ideas and he loved teaching that to anybody who would have the mind or heart to doing the same, whether they were students or fellow faculty members.”

Criminal justice professor Cassandra Sedelmaier spoke next about Craig Parker. Sedelmaier took the audience on a journey through both her undergraduate and graduate experience, as she had Parker as an instructor in both and explained how she attempts to embody her mentor’s ability to be a caring and devoted professor as a first-year instructor at the university.

“As a first-year faculty member, when I think about the type of mentor that I want to be to my students… Craig Parker is always one of my strongest inspirations as an instructor and a mentor,” Sedelmaier said. “He challenged me throughout my career… and he took genuine joy in the success of his students and happiness of those around him.”

Khadija Al Arkoubi, a professor in the management department followed Sedelmaier, speaking about Anshuman Prasad. Before informing the audience of how Prasad cared deeply about his students’ success and global awareness as professor, Al Arkoubi delivered a personal anecdote about the compassion and worldliness which he encompassed after he recruited her from her previous job in Dubai.

“I remember how he kept sharing tips when I was trying to settle in the great area of New Haven,” Al Arkoubi said. “I also remember the time he invited me and my family for dinner in his house in Branford… My husband and I were nicely surprised to notice their high cultural sensitivity in terms of food choices, and we were impressed by their generosity and welcoming spirit.”

Jim Uebelacker and Erik Rosenthal, both professor emeriti in the math department, delivered witty and heartfelt comments about the recently passed Baldev Sachdeva and Thurmon Whitley, respectively. Uebelacker and Rosenthal described how these two figures helped revitalize the math department in the 1970s and 1980s and how their impact has kept the program as successful as it is today.

Uebelacker called on the words of a fellow colleague who could not be at the service to describe their late colleagues, who said, “he was friendly, perceptive, optimistic, yet realistic and funny.”

“Given these two colleagues, you wouldn’t know which one he was talking about,” said Uebelacker. “Because those descriptors are very relevant to both of them.”

The final tribute was dedicated to Kento Yasuhara, which was delivered by two students and a faculty member who knew him well: Len Diamond, a sophomore mathematics major, Bryan Cadavos, a senior genetics and biotechnology major, and Melissa Whitson, a psychology professor.

Diamond and Cadavos met Yasuhara during his time as the advisor of the Asian American Student Union (AASU). Diamond spoke candidly about how Yasuhara’s presence made him feel more at home within AASU and appreciated his stress relief lessons and conversations in Japanese.

Cadavos also spoke about Yasuhara’s stress relief tactics, citing videos that he shared regarding the practice of progressive muscle relaxation, which Cadavos employs to help students as an academic peer mentor. He looked up to Yasuhara, who helped him become more involved on campus with AASU and inspired him to pursue leadership opportunities.

“As an individual who was still trying to figure out what it means to be a leader, I looked up to Dr. Yasuhara as a role model,” Cadavos said. “I saw the impact that he had made on previous [executive board members,] alumni of AASU and most importantly the [Asian American and Pacific Islander] community. This inspired me to be a leader who people are comfortable coming to… talk to, a leader who is selfless and humble and most importantly a leader who is empathetic.”

Whitson, as a friend and colleague, was able to see Yasuhara as a spirited professor and kind person. She shared an anecdote about Yasuhara’s bountiful optimism, where he believed he could teach a spring semester at the university’s Prato campus and still be there for his wife as they were expecting their second child in February. Those who worked with him were eventually able to talk him out of going to Italy and Whitson shared that she “fondly remembers this as one example of his exuberance and optimism.”

The Charger Bulletin grieves with the campus community for the recently deceased and offers condolences to their friends and family.