General

WOU mourns the loss of beloved professor

Dr. Hank Bersani Jr.

Dr. Hank Alexander Bersani Jr., resident of Monmouth, and professor of special education at Western Oregon University, died as result of injuries sustained in a traffic accident. The accident occurred today, Saturday, March 31, at about 11:20 a.m. Bersani had been riding his bicycle near Highway 99 north of Monmouth. Lt. Greg Hastings of the Oregon State Police said that Bersani was struck by a pickup truck while crossing Highway 99.

Bersani was a respected teacher, scholar and leader in the field of special education. He earned his bachelor’s degree at St. Michael’s College in Winooski, Vermont and then went on to earn both master’s and doctorate degrees from Syracuse University in New York.

Bersani joined Western Oregon University in 1999 after serving at Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) in the areas of public health and preventive medicine. He also provided training coordination for the OHSU in special education and rehabilitative counseling. Bersani had extensive experience elsewhere providing administrative, instructional or research services for Community Integration Associates, Arc of Oregon, Human Services Research Institute, Portland State University, Lewis & Clark College, Oregon Association for Retarded Citizens, National Institute on Disability & Rehabilitation Research, Syracuse University, the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation and other institutions affiliated with the research of the disabled.

His work about people with disabilities has been nationally recognized in books like “Public Health and Disability,” “Me and My A.T.: Students and their Assistive Technology,” “Speaking Up and Spelling it Out: Personal Essays on Alternative and Augmentative Communication,” and “Responding to the Challenge: Current Issues and International Development in Developmental Disabilities, Quality Assurance for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities” Bersani’s publication record is extensive and included scores of articles dating from 1980, before he completed his doctoral dissertation. He has spoken at international conferences in South Africa, Argentina, the United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland, Australia and throughout the United States.

Dr. Hank Bersani Jr. (pictured on right)

Bersani taught a range of courses at Western Oregon University in the field of special education. He also shared his knowledge and expertise with the Forgotten People Foundation, an organization assisting special needs children and adults in Vietnam. In January of this year, Bersani participated in an international forum on disability issues in Doha, Qatar, and toured the Shafallah Center for Children with Special Needs.

Bersani was the recipient of many awards including the Mario and Alma Pastega Scholarship Award, the Multnomah County Arc Educator of the year award, the Rosemary F. Dybwad International Travel Fellowship Award, the Mary Switzer Distinguished Research Fellowship, the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, the Franklin Smith National Service Award, Association of Retarded Citizens U.S., Public Policy Leadership Fellowship, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation, Washington, DC., he was assigned to U.S. Senator John H. Chaffee and he was a Fellow in the American Association on Mental Retardation. Bersani was also past president of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

Bersani is survived by his wife, Lynda, of Monmouth, a son, Alex, and a daughter, Lisa, both of Portland. He was the son of Henry and Mathilda Bersani. Bersani was known for his love of bicycling, travel and, moreover, the love of his family and the interaction he had with his students.

A visitation will be held on Wednesday, April 4 from 2 to 8 p.m. at Bollman Funeral Home, located at 694 Main Street, Dallas, Ore. 97338. On Thursday, April 5, a second visitation will be held at St. Philip’s Parish Catholic Church Day Chapel (825 SW Mill St. in Dallas) from 9:30 to 11 a.m. A mass and funeral will follow at 11 a.m., with a reception held as soon as the service concludes. A celebration of life will be held at Western Oregon University on Saturday, April 7 from 1 to 4 p.m. in the Pacific Room of Werner University Center. The program will be held from about 1:15 to 2:15, with time for socializing and refreshments after.

Please leave your thoughts and memories of Dr. Bersani in the comments on this post.

181 thoughts on “WOU mourns the loss of beloved professor

  1. When my wife came home from OHSU after suffering a stroke, Hank was right there at our house ready to be sure the house was safe so she wouldn’t be endangered by falling over furniture and so on.
    He and his wife are friends and pillars of our community. He is missed and we will be there for Lynda. Our prayers and thoughts are with them both.

  2. That is so sad! I never had him as a professor but I heard great things about him. I also had the oppertunity to work with him during NSW once. He was a super nice guy! He will be missed. My prayers and thought go out to his family.

  3. Wow I am so sad to hear of this unexpected passing of such a great educator and professor. I remember having him as a professor in one of my education courses. He was always so lively and passionate! He loved giving us a total 180 perspective on things.

    Hope that his family will find peace and strength in this tragedy. My heart goes out to all that knew him.

  4. OMG, Hank was sooo full of life that I can’t imagine his passing. Although I’ve been retired for the last 6 years, I so enjoyed Hank as a colleague and inspiration. He had that NY or was it NJ way of talking that brought enthusiasm to his words.
    What a loss for Western, Special Education and his family. He will not be forgotten.
    David Wright
    Professor Emeritus Teacher Education

  5. The world is now void of a very inspiring and amazing individual. Dr. Bersani was so passionate about everything he believed in and taught. He taught me a lot of content over the three years I had him as a professor, but more importantly he asked me to think and refine who I was as an individual. He taught me to always ask questions and do what I believed to be right even if it was not the popular choice.

    You will truly be missed Hank. My thoughts and prayers are with Linda, his children, and the WOU faculty and students.

    Christina VanNice

  6. I offer my heartfelt sympathy to Hank’s loved ones. Please know that I will hold you close in my thoughts and in my heart. May you be comforted in your time of sorrow.

  7. I’m at a loss for words. Hank was so full of life. It is hard to image him not being here. While our paths crossed infrequently his passion, warmth and humanity were contagious. Hank, we will miss you. The world of special education will miss you. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family, and to our WOU family that must be in shock as well.

    Mark Schalock
    The Teaching Research Institute

  8. I’m very saddened to hear of Hank’s passing. I just saw him last week in which we talked about his plans to do the STP this summer in one day and how he was starting his training for this. While he died doing what he loved doing, it is a tragic loss. My sympathies go out to his family. He will be greatly missed on campus.

  9. This is like losing a brother, a friend, an inspiration, and a valuable and beautiful human. Our prayers go out to all affected by this great loss.

  10. Hank, I can’t begin to tell you how much you will missed by all how loved and respected you. Lynda, our hearts go out to you and your family.
    Keni Sturgeon, former curator of the Jensen Arctic Museum

  11. I had the great pleasure of sharing a hallway and an office wall with Hank Bersani for several years at work. I got to see and hear first hand the compassion he had for his students and the passion he had for teaching. He was an AMAZING supporter for special education rights. He had a great sense of humor. Hank touched many lives and words cannot convey how much he will be missed. My prayers go out to his family, friends, colleagues and students in this time of sorrow.

  12. I am so sorry to hear that Dr. Bersani has passed. I listened to him lecture in avocation for Special Education at WOU last year. His passion was undeniable and I am sure that the world of Special Education has forever been positively changed because of his work. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends and colleagues.

  13. Hank was always the smiling face you could see walking into the Education building at WOU. I’m extremely saddened to hear about this especially with such an incredible scholar, professor, and man. Hank, you will be extremely missed by myself, the WOU community and the world. You were so full of life and had one of the most contagious senses of humor. It was a pleasure working with you and always cracking jokes together, I cant say it enough – you will be missed. :’( My thoughts are with the Bersani family.

  14. This breaks my heart, he was an amazing teacher and always made us laugh. He will be deeply missed. WOU RCD Graduate 2010

  15. Only so many people in this world could share my passion for bad coffee – made double dark and full of taste. Here’s to you Hank, may your cup be ever full.

  16. Although I didn’t know Hank for very long, he was kind and friendly to me from our first encounter at WOU. As a new faculty member this meant a lot. My thoughts and prayers are extended to his family and friends.

  17. My heart sunk when my scanner said this had happend. I never knew you but I am a christian and I morn the loss of you . God be with your family ,and I know If you were saved your with jesus ! This is a loss to the entire world becouse young people from the entire world come to this fine collage. We will not be the same without you !

  18. Although I did not have Dr. Bersani as a professor, I know he was a amazing educator. Working in the College of Education office, I had many interations with him and know he will be greatly missed on campus. My thoughts go out to his family.

  19. Hank was my favorite education professor at WOU. I looked forward to going to class everyday and he had such a passion about what he was teaching. RIP Hank. You will be missed!

  20. I am so saddened by the loss of Hank. He was mentor and teacher to me beginning in 1999. He was a great man who touched the lives of many throughout his life and career. He was the head of my Masters Committee and I will be forever grateful for his honesty and support. Between Hank, Mickey and Bob, I had the best college experience a person could have. Hank will be missed. My prayers to his family and all those who respected him as I did. Rest in Peace Hank!

  21. I’m not sure I have ever known anyone who could look past a person’s disability and see the real person the way Hank could. I loved listening to his lectures, which somehow felt like I was sitting around with a friend who was just telling me good stories, except that I learned a great deal from him. I will be thinking of Lynda and their children, as well as the other WOU faculty who loved him. What a tragic loss this is.

  22. Hank’s presence in the college of education is something that I have experienced for over 14 years. I will certainly miss Hank’s positive presence, his humaness, unrelenting passion in the education for the marginalized, and overall a great human being with a comforting presence. I have no words – May the Lord’s presence envelop his family at this time – there are no enough words in the language to express this loss. Hank, you will truly be missed.

  23. Rest in Peace after a life well lived. Your service to your students and colleagues will never die.You will forever live on through the numerous people your life touched. Go in peace great teacher.

  24. I am shocked and saddened to learn of the death of my friend as well as my fellow bike rider and advocate of the vulnerable. As we enter into Holy Week may this tragedy, like the one of two thousand years ago, lead to new life. My prayers are with Hank, and with Lynda, Lisa and Alex. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon him.

    • Hank was a joyful educator and a gifted communicator. His devotion to God and his family, colleagues and students was unparalleled. He spoke lovingly of his wife Lynda and chuckled when sharing about his children. He loved to bicycle whenever possible, and treated all as Jesus would, a model for us all.

  25. I went through the Special Education graduate program from 2007 through 2009 and Dr. Bersani had been one of my professors. I loved having him for a professor and gained so much knowledge to help prepare me for my career in special ed. He was passionate in his teaching and in turn instilled that passion in his students. I will always remember him with great respect and fondness. The world has lost a truly great man. My sympathy goes out to his family, friends, and colleagues and to the many students who will not have the honor of having him as a professor.

  26. When we moved to Monmouth with only what we could fit in our Subaru, Hank was one of the first ones to extend a hand. We will never forget sitting down to one of the best Italian meals we ever had, and then being doubly satisfied to learn that very meal had been made by his own hands. When Edwin had surgery, Hank once again stood on our doorstep with a full meal complete with dessert :)… Chocolate no less… We are glad he and his family’s kindness and generosity were some of our first encounters with Oregon… Our hearts are full… You will be missed..but always remembered.

  27. Hank’s presentations on public education were always interesting and critical. Although I was never a student of him he will be missed. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family. R.I.P. Professor Bersani

  28. Spring term is usually a bright and uplifting term for me, but this year will be very different. I mostly knew Dr.Hank Bersani because of our mutual love of the bike, but I also knew he was a very gifted Educator. He spoke and rode with a passion for life, and inspired me toward an even greater love of the outdoors. He always had a twinkle in his eye, and now that I read his lengthy list of accomplishments and awards, I realize even more that he was one in a million. I know he was very streetwise, and that makes this tragedy almost impossible to believe.
    His legacy will live on in all of our hearts, and once again I am reminded to cherish each and every day..my condolences to his family and loved ones.

  29. There are no good words when such tragedy occurs so I will just echo what so many others have said. My heart is heavy and sad. I want to send cyber hugs to the whole entire Bersani family and all the rest of us who are hurting and devastated over the loss of such an awesome individual who has definitely left his mark on the world. I had the pleasure and sometimes trials of working in the College of Ed with him for about 3 years and am proud to have known him as a fine educator, but most importantly one who you could talk to and tease, yet would always leave a smile even if you just wanted to choke him. The halls of ED/SPED will always have a huge void that will never quite be filled up the way it was with Hank around. May all the memories and spirit of Hank live on forever.

  30. I had the pleasure of serving on several committees with Hank. His input was witty and insightful. My sincerest condolences to his family and friends.

  31. I’m completely stunned that someone so full of life could be taken so soon, and there’s now a void at WOU created by his passing. He was just in my office a couple days ago, needing help with Moodle. It was a simple thing, but he was so thankful, smiling as always. He said, “Thanks, Scott, you’re a lifesaver!”

    No, Hank, you were the lifesaver. You touched so many lives. It’s hard to imagine WOU without you.

  32. My heart is filled with saddness to hear about Hank. He was always filled with joy and supported and even subed some of my ASL interp & TPD classes. He will be missed greatly! It is very sad he passed away but I am happy he died enjoying doing what he enjoyed. My prayers are with Hank’s family, co-workers, students and friends. We will always miss you Hank.

    R.I.P Dr. Hank Bersani

  33. If you didnt know Hank– you missed out. Talk about an amazing light and spirit. Thank you for touching our lives Hank. We love you.

  34. Hank was one of only a handful of professors who truly touched my life during my time at WOU. His classes were amazing and his compassion came through in every lecture. He will be truly missed. May God’s peace be with his family and friends during this difficult time.

  35. I’m stunned. Hank and Lynda were our neighbors when we moved to Salem from Indiana in 1999. They were so kind to us and quickly became good friends. Hank was full of life and passion. I’ve gone on bike rides and hikes with Hank. We even did the 2001 Portland marathon together. My thoughts, prayers, and love are with Lynda, Lisa, and Alex.

    RIP Hank.

  36. In the brief seminar I had with Hank I knew he was a special teacher who cared deeply about Special Education. My prayers go out to his family and all the people his life has touched.

  37. Hank has touched the lives of so many…I took many classes from him while completing my special educator coursework. He was a very honest man with wealth of knowledge. He forced me to grow as a student and person in a way that I had never experienced. Hank truly “told it like it was”, even when “it” made people uncomfortable. The field of special education will forever be impacted by his work. My thoughts and prayers are with his family. He may be gone, but his legacy will live on through his students and those who knew him….

  38. This is a great to loss to humanity and to the Western community in particular. Hank recently sent me an email welcoming me to join the IRB committee. I intended to get back to him by way of a reply but never did. Both he and Linda also recently related their new found mass experience at Dallas and wanted me to come and experience it with my family. It’s sad to learn that Hank who was so full of life and so generous with all who came his way is no more. I have come to know Hank at St Patrick church beside Western and can say that he was a gentleman of nature. May he rest in peace and may the good lord comfort Linda and the children whom he loved so dearly.

  39. I had the great honor to log many miles on the bike with Hank. I had finally found someone who loved cycling as much as I did. Hank was a fantastic friend and someone I looked up to as a cyclist and also an educator but even more a person. Hank loved his family and wonderful with individuals who had disabilitites, truly an inspiration and someone that if you came in contact with your life became better. Hank I will miss you and will ride many miles in your honor and know that you will be watching over me and right there with me. Thoughts and prayers to Lynda and family!

  40. I truly admired all of my professors in my grad program at WOU, and Hank was no exception. I loved his sense of humor and have aspired to emulate his engaging teaching style when I give presentations to colleagues.

    I remember he had a sign on his office door that read “Notice my (dis)ABILITY”. That is how I will always remember him- a passionate advocate, engaging storyteller, hilarious lecturer, and role model for others. Blessings to the Bersani family and WOU staff, you are in my prayers!

    Joy Brown
    BA Elementary Education 1997; MS Special Education 2003

  41. Hank was a great guy to talk with every time I walk by his office in the education building. Almost every time he would joke me by saying “Why are you still here at WOU?” Even though I graduated in 2010 and I work part time there. It’s a bummer that I won’t get the joke from him again. Hope you’re still riding your bike wherever you are! :)

  42. I was a student of Professor Bersanni’s just last Fall term of 2011. Though I was only in his entry level special education class for Elementary Ed Majors I still feel I learned so much from him. Professor Bersanni also played a helping hand in my acceptance to the WOU College of Education Undergraduate program in writing a recommendation letter. Professor Bersanni will be missed and never forgotten. Special Education will not be the same without him. God Bless You Professor Bersanni and may you rest in peace.

  43. Hank, you lived life to its fullest, you always brought a different perspective to the discussion, and you made us laugh when we least expected it. You made a huge impact not just on the people around you, but on the policies that impacted people everywhere. You made a difference in this world, and you’ve left a big hole in our lives. The halls just won’t be the same without you. I can’t picture you resting, but whatever you are doing, I hope it is in peace. Blessings to your family, friends, and colleagues.

  44. Hank, you made me believe, in a better future for those with disabilities, and those without. Your commitment to enlightening the world will not be forgotten. May you rest in Peace…and in God’s Love.

  45. Dear Lynda and family,
    Please accept my deepest sympathies to you all. Hank was a dear friend and colleague. We shared many laughs and good memories when I worked with him at OHSU.
    I live in Hong Kong now and will be with you in spirit as you gather to mourn this terrible tragedy. God bless, Jane Murphy

  46. I was an international student of Professor Bersanni’s just last Fall term of 2011. I got a lot of care from him. I just remembered the two weeks ago, we met in the education building, he said he would like to say hi with my parents if they come to my graduation. He taught us how to get along with those with special needs because maybe someday I could be. I was so grateful his teaching and the attitude of his career. I did not know what to say when I saw this news so I asked my American friend to make sure I did not misinterpret. When I was in difficulty, he prayed for me, and now, It is time for me to pray for him as well as his family which is only thing I can do for him. God bless. Sui Yang from China.

  47. I will miss seeing Hank in the halls of the Ed building. He would always stop and talk with me about travels, Deaf Native Americans and his experiences with tribal communities in other countries. His interest in people was genuine and his work to advance the perspectives of people with disabilities was far-reaching. I learned a lot from him, just in those hallway chats, and I will miss our talks. He was a wonderful person.

  48. I am beyond words and thoughts right now, in hearing of Dr. Bersani’s death…I had felt a little not together or right today, and now I know why. I will always remember his humor, and his brilliance a true shining light always there to bring his students into that light if only to impart some piece of wisdom. I will miss his smile and his laugh but most of all his teaching. It was great to know that he was spreading his knowledge to others, I pray for strength for his Special Education family at WOU who will miss him in the building and to his family who will miss him at home, may you find the strength from his memory. I pray that there be a hedge of protection around you all to get you through this troubling time. Know that your extended family in Hank’s students now and before are with you every step of the way.

  49. I didn’t know Dr. Bersani personally, but he must have been a great man. A mournful loss for Western Oregon Unversity. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family, stay strong.

  50. I am most sad to hear of our collective loss of Dr. Bersani. He was, in the truest sense, an educator and I am confident that he helped positively shape the lives of many special education students through his teaching and research.

    I am a former student of his (Rehabilitation Counseling, 2003) and more recently we had corresponded about possible publication topics related to youth transition–a topic of mutual interest–and one of his passions. He will be sorely missed, and yet he has left an indelible mark on the field of special education, youth transition, and rehabilitation.

    My thoughts are with his family.

    Mikael Snitker-Magin, PhD, CRC, LPC
    Assistant Professor, Ferris State University

  51. Hank Bersani was a wonderful man and educator. I took one of his classes this year for Special Education and I enjoyed him and all his expertise in the field. I respected him very much and my heart is very heavy at the thought of this ill timed loss. He will be missed. My thoughts and prayers are with his family. Thank you for all the laughs during class Hank, I will never forget all you taught me in just 3 months.

  52. Hank was a wonderful person that could make a good day great with just a few words. Such a vibrant man. He will be missed.

  53. Mere words cannot express how shocked and devastated I felt as I turned on my computer to see this page describing this unbelievable tragedy. I spent a while to fight back the tears and gain the composure to try to express my thoughts.
    I was shocked and saddened to open WOU’s web page to find this announcement. I rarely write anything for the public, but I feel so sad that I fought back the tears in hopes that I might express my sympathy to Hank’s family and loved ones.

    Having just lost my husband shortly before coming back to school, Hank’s class was actually the beginning of the healing process for me. His wonderful sense of humor and his great wisdom was amazing. He just seemed to know his students; our fears, our hopes, our weaknesses, our dreams. Somehow he seemed to reach past our obvious weaknesses and see the good in ALL of his students. If a student was struggling, he was always willing to spend the time and present the answers needed. He was never too proud to share a story of a struggle in his own life which let us know that he was human,,, and mostly, that he was on our side. He wanted to raise up a generation of caring people who would reach out to those who suffer from their disabilities, and he wanted us to make a difference in their lives.

    Hank adored his family, and all of his students new it through his great stories. He used his own life experience to help us to realize that we are all just people, and that people need people, and that students have something special to offer to those who need someone to care.
    I pray that each family member and friend will be blessed with supernatural strength for the present and hope for the future.
    To Hank’s family I say thank you for sharing this wonderful man, and magnificent teacher. His loss will be felt around the world, but especially here at WOU. May God bless you and give you faith to believe that Hank is not gone, he is just in a better place waiting to be reunited with you.

  54. I loved this man. Hank and I had the liveliest conversations on everything from wine and the best way to fillet a salmon to heart-rates, poetry and the nature of human consciousness. As a professor he could be fiercely independent and irreverent of those old institutional forces that kept “things in their place,” as he once described it. “I’m going to open the drawers and toss some things around,” he said. As an advocate for people with disabilities he was a maverick and a champion, but he was also a selfless team player at a university he loved and where he believed “much good was achieved.” And no one was more of a peacemaker and gentle counselor when those graces were needed most. I turned to Hank for advice when tensions flared between the colleges of Education and Liberal Arts and Sciences—tensions that affected my professional and personal life—and he told me to “listen and listen some more, before doing anything.” I draw often on this useful wisdom. Hank Bersani was so smart, active, funny, kind, patient–just a wonderful human being. God, I will miss him. Our deepest condolences go out to lovely Lynda and their children.
    -Henry Hughes

  55. Hank was widely respected in national and international circles in intellectual and developmental disabilities, having served as President of the AAIDD. He was a consulting editor of the Journal of Religion, Disability and Health while I was editor, and a very good friend. We roomed together at many AAIDD national conferences. His energy, spirit, and dedication to people with disabilities, his students and his family were always part of the Hank I knew. Thos of you at WOU just need to know that there are many, many more who share your feelings and will be holding his family and all of you in our hearts and prayers on this. Palm Sunday and in the coming days. Rev. Bill Gaventa, The Elizabeth M Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities, New Brunswick, New Jersey

  56. My thoughts and prayers are with Hanks family. I so enjoyed having Hank as a professor, and even when I have had questions working as a special educator, I could come and talk to Hank. He would always point me in the right direction and get me problem solving. Thank you for a life well-lived.

  57. Since hearing of Hank’s death I have been left with such deep sorrow. My memories are filled with his ever-present smile and passion for his work. When I had the opportunity to teach my Developmental Psych. course in the large lecture hall in the College of Ed, Hank would often walk by and I would invite him to join our class. He would then joyfully tease me about the material I was teaching. The students simply loved it and these are the treasures I will keep with me as I mourn his loss. One hears about people that “light up a room” with their presence and Hank Bersani was absolutely one of those people. He has left an indelible mark on every student and colleague that had the opportunity and fortune to meet and work with him. I celebrate the vibrance of his life and join others in thanking his family for sharing this extraordinary man.

    Tamina Toray

  58. A university faculty consists of a community of diverse voices, from widely divergent backgrounds who represent a living library of knowledge. Among those many different people are some who others look to as leaders due to their exceptional intellect, their expansive skills, their accomplishments or their distinctive personality. Those individuals become faculty leaders and are the ones that their colleagues consult when the discourse becomes complicated. Hank Bersani was such a person. Though his physical presence is gone, his legacy will continue far into the future.
    Kent Neely

  59. Hank always show glow happy face when I see him. His important question asked me how is climbing mtn relate highpointer going. He is very passion to listen my climb stories. I highly respect him and he shows his unique care to Special Education faculty and students and ASL teachers. I am truly deep sorrow as best inspired wonderful guy ever i know him. I believe he is happy in heaven and ride new adventures daily. Give my deepest condolences to Hanks wife Lynda and their children. We all do miss him with our touch heart. Miriam Richards

  60. I am saddened by the untimely death of Hank who truly lived life to its fullest. He was smart, gregarious, funny, opinionated, and loved to argue, though it was never personal. I just can’t imagine the College of Education without Hank. What a loss.

    Gwenda Rice

  61. Hank Bersani reached “across the street” to connect members of the Colleges of Education and Liberal Arts and Sciences with his generosity, leadership and good humor. His teaching, scholarship and collegial service enriched us immeasurably and will continue to thrive as his legacy.
    Kimberly Jensen

  62. I am so shocked and sad to hear this tragedy. I’m at a loss for words. I just took his special education class. He was such an amazing professor. We just exchanged mail a few days ago. Also, he said that he will contact to me when he visits Korea. I cannot imagine WOU without him. This breaks my heart. This is a real tragedy. I offer my deep condolences to him and his family.

  63. I’ve had a lot of professors throughout my education, and I can honestly say that Hank Bersani was one of the greatest and one of my favorites. He taught me so much, and helped shape me into the professional I am today. The field of Special Education has lost a truly great man. My heart goes out to his fellow teaching staff, his wife and kids. A very sad day indeed…….

  64. I am sorry to hear this incident. He got his new job at WOU when I was a student of Deaf Education/Special Education program. He LOVED many DEAF people like me. I enjoyed his excellent knowledge of special education. He had been learning a lot about Deaf Education that is far different from Special Education. He enjoyed learning that challenge among Deaf professors and Deaf students. Our prayers go out to his family members. Now Dr. Hank Bersani is with precious Lord, Amen!

  65. Hank Bersani a great educator who has a passion for Special Education. I had two terms with him, and did some office work for him as well. I’d stop by between classes just to say hi and visit. Through him I was able to reconnect with WOU professor Jerry Braza last winter term of 2011. Wonderful man, wonderful teacher. He forever holds a special place in my heart and everyone else he has met over the years. <3

  66. I had Professor Bersani for my first Special Education class for my minor and he absolutely made an difference in helping me find my passion. I remember him fondly in that class because he told such rich stories from his past of working in Special Education and encouraged the class to become aware of unique traits that each one of us possess. Another matter, that really stood out about him for me was that he was excited and upbeat about his field, and that made the learning experience even richer and enjoyable as a student. When I heard the news that he had passed away I was very shocked and I give my condolences to him and his family. It is so sad to lose such an wonderful educator and passionate man in his field.

  67. I never took a class from Professor Bersani, but during my time in graduate school at WOU (’07-’09), I heard many great things about him from my classmates. I know he will be greatly missed by the community there. His family and friends are in my thoughts and prayers.

  68. Such an unexpected, sad loss. Hank and I were recently communicating about the possibility of him teaching an Honors seminar next year. He mentioned the need to work around his sabbatical, and we digressed into talking about WOU and life in general. His enthusiasm for all of his plans was constantly apparent. Although it’s cliched for an English professor to quote poetry at times like this, the following lines from Mary Oliver’s “In Blackwater Woods” consoled me when my father died and similarly seem to capture Hank’s passion for life and, sadly, the burden of grief: “To live in this world / you must be able / to do three things: / to love what is mortal; / to hold it / against your bones knowing / your own life depends on it; / and, when the time comes to let it go, / to let it go.”

  69. It was a complete shock to hear of the passing of Hank. Though I hadn’t known Hank for very long, he was truly a wonderful person. Full of life and a inspiration for educators. His presence will be deeply missed.

  70. What a somber time to loose such a great man who influenced many. My condolences go out to his wife, children and colleagues. I was a former student of Hanks and colleague at TRI. I am so sorry to hear of his death. He filled the minds and hearts of students with his passion for research in Special Education. He will truly be missed for his strive for excellence, compassion heart and loving nature. Thank you Hank for all that you have given to us in your life. We will forever value your work and love for Education.

  71. Lynda and children, When I heard the news my heart filled with sadness. I look back to all of the memories and all of the laughter. To a workshop in Omaha where Lynda met Hank. Hank was such a gifted teacher! You are all in my thoughts and prayers.

  72. Monmouth, the WOU community and our yoga class will not be the same without Hank. He was the life of the party and he will be missed. May the warm and happy memories of Hank sustain us through the grief of his passing.

  73. How grateful I am that I got to have Dr. Bersani as an instructor at WOU. I heard so much about him when first starting my minor and always saw him with a smile. Having him as a professor not only showed me how great of an educator and individual he was, but what you can do when you are passionate about something. He made class fun and provided so much for us in just three months. He will be greatly missed. My thoughts and prayers go out to his friends and family. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful man with us.

  74. Hank, we shared three fun years at OHSU where you mentored me back to grad school and helped me realize I could be a professor too. I will miss picking up the phone and calling you for advice and a laugh. Lynda, our thoughts are with you and the kids. We are full of sorrow. Tina (and Eric) Anctil

  75. Lynda, Lisa, and Alex-
    We are all saddened and shocked with the news and we extend our deepest sypathy to you in this most difficult time. What a great husband and father Hank was! It is amazing all the wonderful things he had done in such a short time. The lives he touched and the people he helped is incredible. He will be truly missed by many, many people. What a wonderful man he was. May the Angels rise up to meet him.
    Dan and Katie and all the Cashmans

  76. We have a son named Nethaniel Kurz. Hank Bersani was kind to Nethaniel by helping him get acquainted with the Special Ed. department and allowed Nethaniel to come in and shred paper in the offices. He was a kind man with a heart for people and children with special needs. Thank you Hank for all you did for so many people. You will be missed! Our condolences to all your family.
    John & Nancy Kurz

  77. Hank is a man that I respect as a person and an educator. When I told him that I would be getting my masters degree online, from home with my husband, he told me that home was overrated and I should stay and finish. From that day on whenever he would see me the topic of discussion was what I was doing for my masters degree, what program I was going to study, where I was going to get my degree and what I was going to do with my degree. Hank was not only a man who taught, he was a man who truly cared, and made sure you know it. He always had a smile and a good word for you. He was willing to give you his time and his patience. I will miss his smile, his words of wisdom and his teasing and playful attitude that made you feel that even if you were his student you were also his firend. My heart and prayers goes out to Linda and their children. I know that your loss is much more than ours. But please know that he will be missed.

  78. Hank was an amazing professor who had such a great outlook on life. He frequently shared personal stories and humor to convey concepts. He held his students to high standards of performance which I have personally applied to my teaching career. He will be deeply missed. My heart and thoughts go out to his family.

  79. I am honored to have been a student of this wonderful man. Hank was such a vibrant person. WOU will never be the same without him. My heart breaks for his family. May God be your comforter now and always.

  80. I was the secretary for the Special Ed office during the time Hank was Chair of the Division. Every day was just ordinary until Hank strolled into the office – then the whole place would light up and come to life! I’ve missed him ever since I left for a different job, but I still hear his voice and see him in my mind. I always will. One of my favorite memories was when one our student workers, Jessica came back to visit us after she’d gone on to a new life with her new baby girl. I can still see him holding that tiny baby against his broad shoulder, patting her back so gently with his hand, and her little sleeping head resting against his cheek. Those hands, so animated in his normally vibrant and passionate way of talking were cradling little baby Sophia like a precious gift from God. I think he thought of all people as a gift from God. Hank, you were a gift from God, and I will be missing you until we meet again someday. Love to your family!

  81. One of the genuinely bright lights in this world, suddenly gone. Now, we remember, Hank. And I’ll miss you. Ride on!

  82. I was fortunate enough to have Hank for a class focusing on special education. He was an interesting and humorous presenter of the material but what really struck me was his deep knowledge of the topic. It wasn’t that he had studied the topic, he had lived it and it was part of what compelled him in life. His interest was in seeing students with special needs given the chances that other students received and treating those individuals with dignity.

    Not only did I learn a lot about special education while attending his class but I grew to appreciate the struggles that the students went through and I attribute that to his passionate presentation of the material.

    I feel saddened for his friends and family, his legacy of students and the students that will not be given the opportunity to learn from him.

  83. Every time I have a question about the efficacy of some educational technique or the validity of a research article I will smile and think of Hank!

    Clearly, he touched many lives. May that knowledge give you each some measure of peace and comfort.

    My Heartfelt Condolences,
    Robyn Wise

  84. The last emails I got from Hank were invitations for a weekend ride. My deep regret is that I will never get another chance. He was one of the crown jewels of WOU — deeply caring and a LOT of fun to spend time with. I will think of him with affection whenever I walk by the Ed Building or hop on my bike for a bliss ride on a sunny afternoon.

  85. Dear Dr. Hank Bersnai,

    I was such honored to attend your Special Ed class for one term during my RCD graduate time (2005-2007). Anyways, I was nervous to be part of your classroom because Special Ed course was required for all of us (RCD/RC) to study this course, but you made it with your quick wit and rapport. I was amazed by your fluent in ASL so I knew I would enjoy this class very much! I felt so connected with you as a student. You were always there whenever I needed help with the projects or questions. My favorite memory of our rapport: everytime we bumped into each other in the hallways, you gave me a look and said “Oh no, it’s you again”! I bantered right back, “yes, it’s me again!” We always bantered forth and back! It was the bright spot during the winter term! I am always grateful for your generosity, patience, intelligence, and a wacky sense of humor! I will always remember your beautiful soul with a bang of laughter with fondness. My prayers go out for your family, friends, students, and colleagues.

    Love always,

    Dawnell

  86. Dr. Hank Bersani, you will be forever missed. You have been an inspirational professor, co-worker, mentor, and an awesome friend. You have inspired me to do so much more. Thank you for all you have done for WOU and the people in your lives. You are an amazing man who looks pass any flaws. I will miss walking by your office seeing your face, our little chit-chats, jokes, most of all your charming smile. You will be forever in my and all of our hearts…

  87. God bless you, Dr. Bersani. Your person and your efforts will truly be missed. I’ve seen you around campus, but never got to know you. If one good thing can come out of this story, it is that more of us are now aware of Forgotten People Foundation. I’ve already shared it with my friends and family. We hope to meet you someday in the Lord’s Kingdom.
    ~Tenderly, the David and Terri Pouliot household.

  88. Such a wonderful man… I never saw him without a smile on his face. Thoughts and prayers go to the family… know that he touched many lives.

  89. Dr. Bersani was a truly a thoughtful and passionate man. I had the privilege of working with him through the Forgotten People Foundation, right before he traveled to Vietnam in Spring 2009. He always asked “what can I do to help?”. He was a bright energy through the College of Ed, and will be greatly missed. My thoughts an prayers are with his family and everyone who is affected by this loss.

  90. When I read the news of Hank’s passing my heart sank. He was such a great professor, and always kept class lively even when dealing with material that was less-than-thrilling for me. I admired him for his dedication to children with the greatest needs and his excitement for helping others. As I look to reenter the Special Ed program next year there will be a major void in the place he used to fill.
    Lynda, Lisa, and Alex – I have heard much about you in Hank’s classes, and through his words saw the love he had for you. My prayers are with you all in this time.

  91. My cohort was just getting to know Dr. Bersani having had two classes with him last term. I loved his stories about working with his own special needs students and the way he used humor when talking about heavy topics to try to lighten up the mood. We learned so much from him in a short time. I will never forget one thing he taught us, he drilled it into my head anyway,

    “If it’s wet and not yours, do not touch it!”

    You will be missed…

  92. I had Professor Bersani a few terms ago and loved his class. His “lectures” were more like hanging out and having a conversation….he was funny, animated, charismatic…but had an obvious wealth of knowledge. If I ran into him in the hallways of the education building, I always smiled and waved, and then kept the smile for a few more seconds after he had passed by. He was that kind of person. I am so sad for Hank’s family, and for everyone that won’t get to have him as a Professor. He was truly special.

  93. Hank was a guest lecturer in a course on differentiated instruction, and came in for about an hour to give a PPT presentation to our class. It was a privilege to hear his rich and storied experiences in the field of special education, and to learn (what struck me as) his irreverent perspective on the field. I was especially impressed with his independent, humanistic viewpoint and insistence on the sanctity of students and their needs, over an above the institutional prerogatives that so often guide the field of education and teacher-training.
    Without alienating our class members (he prefaced a few comments with “this is probably not politically correct”!), he was able to communicate an against-the-grain worldview that I (and I hope others in our cohort) found tremendously refreshing and inspiring.
    After our class, we had a brief, but lively exchange about the respective cultures of Oregon and New York, and clearly Hank prided himself on being both sensitive to place and audience, but also responsive the moral and truth imperatives of the heart and mind. Although my exposure to him was all to brief, he has left an indelible and lasting impression of a deeply humanistic and committed teacher–the kind we aspire to be.

  94. I had the pleasure of working with Hank on a personal project of his. I remember him being in awe of the way I set up SPSS for the data. He was so vibrant when he spoke and was so passionate about his work. The last time I saw him was at Graduation 2011, he was in the line of Professors as us graduates walked through to the seating area. He saw me and said “You can’t leave yet, I have more work for you!”. We just laughed. I am so grateful to have gotten to know him, even if was for only a year. WOU has lost a great Professor and influence. His family is in my thoughts.

  95. There are no words….I cannot imagine the start of the term without Hank wandering the halls smiling and carrying on….it will be so strange!
    My prayers go out to Lynda and the kids, though I don’t know them!
    I appreciate being a part of a great community like WOU – that Hank so greatly contributed to – especially in hard times like this.
    Hank was a mentor of mine – officially for the first few years and unofficially since then, I will miss getting his perspective on work and life! I will be forever grateful for his influence on my career!

  96. I had Bersani a few terms ago. He was the greatest. His class was so lively, it was obvious that he loved what he did. His personality was so bubbly and made the whole class light up. This is a great loss to Western.

  97. I had the pleasure of working with Hank on a research project about how teachers are prepared to work with students with traumatic brain injury. He approached this new area of work with the enthusiasm and passion of a new professional in special education. Given his extensive and respected career in the field, I was impressed by this—that he could find a new area of such interest, and devote so much energy and effort to it. I learned a great deal from Hank in the short time we worked together, and am grateful to him for this. I will miss him very much.

  98. Mrs. Bersani and children, may the joyful memories of his love and care for you lessen the painful thoughts of his untimely passing; may outpouring of friends’, students’, and colleagues’ sympathies comfort you and your children in your time of mourning. May the good professor join other good Normal and OCE late professors in heaven.

    With Sincere Sympathies,

    Rep. Faufano Autele ’73, ’77
    American Samoa Legislature

  99. Hank worked with small orphanage for kids with disabilities in Vietnam. I had the joy of seeing the huge impact of his help when I lived in Vietnam. He will be sorely missed. Tạm biệt bạn tốt

  100. AAWWWWW! NNNOOOOOO! What a waste! Hank was a shining star among us. Hank was robust, a positive contribution to all around him, a shining example of intelligence/humor/compassion. I am sad for me, sad for the school and sad for the family, sad for all of us left behind. There are not enough words in this moment. My heart, my caring, my love go out to everyone today. Godspeed: via con Dios.
    Love and Blessings
    Daryl

  101. My wife, Dianne, and I first met Hank about 30 years ago at Syracuse. His combination of commitment, advocacy and humor was something I have tried to emulate. His latest involvement in the Forgotten People Project in Viet Nam is a good example of this. Our thoughts and condolences go out to his family. What a terrible loss.

    Phil and Dianne Ferguson

  102. Hank was a wonderful colleague. I was fortunate enough to serve on several committees with him, and am so glad I had the opportunity to know him. He had a fantastic sense of humor, but took his work very seriously. He was truly committed to excellence and was an asset to the community, both at this University and beyond. I will miss him very much.

  103. I have never met or had been taught by Hank Bersani but it is clear that his legacy will live on through his his family, friends, and compassionate work in the community . Rest in Peace and my prayers go out deeply to his family.

  104. As Wangeci said, there are no words. Hank was such an amazing, supportive, caring human being. He was brilliant, hilarious, irreverant, sometimes angry, but more often gentle and concerned. All of my students loved him, as did I. He was an incredible teacher, researcher, department chair and friend. His influence was far reaching in this country and abroad and his loss is overwhelming. To Hank’s family .. Rarely have I known a man who spoke with such respect and tenderness about his wife and children. You were soooo important to him. Know that you are in the thoughts and prayers of all whose lives he touched.
    Bev Cannon Mosier

  105. I loved Hank. His joviality was the smiling side of his intense passion and fierce commitment to equality of opportunity. He will be with me every time I tell someone that “‘retarded’ doesn’t mean stupid and should not be an insult” and I will celebrate his work when “difference” becomes the substitute for “disability” in our rhetorical culture and our consciousness, for he helped pave those roads. The loss of his life is immense and unfair; the gift of his presence on our campus and in our lives will sustain us through the sorrow.

  106. Hank was an amazing man. I feel blessed to have known him. He definitely had a great love of helping people with severe disabilities and that passion transferred to his college students. I learned so much from him. My prayers are with his family.

  107. We’ve lost an exceptional human being. I can’t claim to have known Hank deeply, but since hearing the horrible news I’ve been wishing I’d had more opportunities to interact with him. His memory serves as a model of wisdom, humor, and humanity–not separate from each other, but all mixed up in a special Hank blend. In one small example of how things won’t be the same without Hank: no more fluorescent-yellow or rainbow tie-dyed shirts among our yoga gathering.

  108. Hank’s smile, laughter, and depth as a human being live on in our hearts and minds as we all try and deal with this unsettling event. His contributions to education and justice will be felt for many generations. Thank you Hank for your impact!

  109. I knew Hank a very long time ago and was so looking forward to reconnecting with him as I start teaching at Western today.
    Hank, I will strive to be the type of teacher and inspiration you were to all who knew and loved you. The bar is exceptional high but it’s my honor to try to reach it.
    Linda, my heart felt condolences to you and the kids. I know that there are no words to comfort you but there is solidarity with those are touched by Hank’s untimely passing.

  110. One of my fondest memories at WOU was interviewing Hank for the Mario and Alma Pastega Award he won. I had the pleasure of talking to Hank to write an article about him and the award for the Commencement program that year. I left the interview feeling so inspired and in awe of a man who managed to do so much good in the world. His sense of humor was always enjoyable to be around and his sense of purpose was motivating. This is an enormous loss and is truly felt by all.

  111. I met Hank trough the Forgotten People Foundation at WOU. He was a very giving, smart awesome person who will be miss by many, there are no words to comfort his lost. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends, colleagues, and everyone who had the honor to meet Hank. Rest in peace Hank.

  112. Hank was a friend of sudents and young professonals in the field of intellectual and developmental disabiltiies. He was a welcoming, friendly face, someone you always looked forward to sharing a beer and good conversation with. Along with Gunnar Dydwad, he co-authored what is still without a doubt the single most important and inflential works on self-advocacy movement. He will be deeply missed by the field.

  113. He was a great teacher. He was very close to getting a contract from Pearson education to write a book for us somthing we had tried to get him to do several times. My prayers for his family and all of those he touched.
    He will be missed

  114. Though I did not know Hank personally, I befriended his daughter Lisa in Portland, and it’s obvious from the wonderful, thoughtful and extraordinary person that she is today, that she was raised by a caring and amazing father. My thoughts and blessings to the Bersani family, Alice.

  115. Hank, God must have needed someone to make a good cup of coffee, otherwise you would still be here. I will miss you every morning when you came for your daily coffee. Lynda, you may not know this, but I told Hank that you were now officially to be known as Saint Lynda for all of the cleanup you had to do behind Hank. What an honor it was to know him; what a wonderful human being he was. Rest in peace Hank.
    Karen

  116. As always, keep an eye over my shoulder my friend and keep helping me up those hills…look forward to seeing you on the top…jk

  117. I have known Hank since I was fourteen and he seventeen. We were both members of our church’s CYO and spent a lot of time together among a small group of friends. When I read about Hank’s death online in the Syracuse newspaper this afternoon, my heart sank. Everything you all have written about Hank–the adult professor– was also true of Hank in his younger years. He was funny, tone deaf (the rest of us were singers!), and always someone who could lighten a room. He could have been a substitute any day for the Energizer Bunny. He kept track of his friends. I have always thought God calls his very special servants to heaven during Easter. I just wish this hadn’t been Hank’s year to go.

    Sue Ferrara, PhD
    Hamilton, NJ

  118. I had great pleasure in hearing him speak. He was also supportive of me speaking. His good nature and informative and interactive speeches will go with me forever. He will be missed. Prayers for his family.

  119. I am shocked and saddened to hear of the accident. My family knew Hank and Linda when I was growing up in Syracuse, NY. They always impressed me both for their teamwork as partners and their interest in putting their ideas into action. For example, I remember that they tried to generate no trash at their house and recycled and reused everything. I think they only had a very small bag of trash to put out on the curb each week. Also, they made a video of the homeroom that my sister was in at Levy Junior High School, it showed students with disabilities and mainstream students working together. This was way before IDEA and least restrictive environment guidlelines, Hank was just making it happen because it was the right thing to do. I am not surprised that Hank was an avid biker, it reflects his environmental consciousness and his love of enjoying life. Hank was a great man and he will be missed on this earth. We are lucky if we knew because his legacy is one of love and acceptance of everyone. We will miss you Hank. Love, Heidi Woolever Daly

  120. This must be an impossible occurrence for everyone, yet depicts how frail and close to an end we all are. Nothing can replace Dr. Bersani. I can only wish that someday we are all able to live as best as can without threat of death or destruction. God bless the Bersanis’ and comfort them now in their loss.

  121. I was shocked to read about Hank’s passing when I returned form Spring Break on Sunday. I knew both Hank and Linda through my work as a special educator. This is such a loss to the education community and to his family. Words escape me, but know that my thoughts and prayers are with Linda and your family. If there is anything I can do now or in the future, just let me know!
    Kathleen Sundell
    SKEA President

  122. For Dr. Bersani and his family,
    To me Dr. Bersani was a wonderful teacher, and a wonderful human being. He was extremely witty in a way that made me laugh, but beyond the laughing his humor was such an indication of his life and the things he knew. He always spoke with kindness and smiled as he passed in the hallway. Though I had him only once during my Special Ed Minor, I saw him frequently in the halls during the past 4 years, as well as some of his presentations in my classes. My heart breaks for you as his family and I pray that every hard moment you go through at this time, is matched tenfold with love, hope, and peace. His influence reverberates throughout the community and he will be greatly missed.

  123. It was always a joy to interpret in Hank’s classes on campus. He was so funny and so brilliant. He always made me laugh! My thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends, students and colleagues. He will be missed very much.

    Stacey Rainey
    Interpreter at WOU

  124. The Special Ed Department was so happy when Hank accepted the position offered to him on my retirement. He more than fulfilled our expectations of him as a faculty member, and made many warm friends as well. He will live on in the memories of his students and colleagues.

    Bev Herzog
    Emeritus Professor of Special Ed

  125. Hank and I met when I first interpreted in one of his classes years ago. Thinking back to that time, I most remember his absolute determination to learn to sign. He clearly wanted so desperately to communicate fully and directly with deaf colleagues and students. I stood by in close proximity while he effortfully and purposefully composed his thoughts (big ideas, impassioned ideas) and communicated them via facial expressions, signs, gestures, mouthing, props, anything he had at his disposal! His effort was unceasing, his aim unyielding, and his results were triumphant. It was an honor to work with him and an inspiration to carry his message — a message I will always carry, if no longer on my hands, then in my heart.
    Hank, you are dearly missed.
    Love and blessings, Hal

  126. Pingback: Collision on 99W outside Monmouth claims life of WOU professor – UPDATED | Bicycle News

  127. A life of service; a heart overflowing. Irrepressible humor; unbounded enthusiasm. So very, very special!
    We miss you, Hank.

  128. Hank was a force. His presence and ideas were that powerful. He earned his national and international reputation not only from his incredible thinking but also from how hard he worked on helping everyone. That says much about his character, that he never rested on his laurels but always continued on to do much more. I treasure my memories of knowing him through AAIDD.

  129. Hank, I will remember you always. You are an incredible mentor and friend to me as I worked my way up through the ranks of my career in working with individuals with disabilities. From my initial work with Take Charge to my directorship of the Center on self Determinatin, you were always a willing collaborator and a wise advisor. All of that was wonderful, however I will remember you most for being a good and decent man, a good friend and a man with a smile that made everyone happy. You will be missed…

    All my love to you and your family
    Dean

    • The world got a little darker on Saturday. Hank’s light was extinguished far too soon.

      God speed Hank.

  130. Oh, how I will miss Hank’s smile and laugh, his warm greetings and the twinkle in his eye as he spoke of something of interest. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and with his WOU family as well. His legacy will live on, but selfishly, I wish he could have stayed with us for much longer.

  131. While I did not know Dr. Bersani well…I did have the fortunate opportunity to hear him speak on several occasions. Dr. Bersani was a gifted educator and will be forever remembered as an advocate for persons with disabilities.
    Prayers..
    Stephanie Schulmerich-Hadley

  132. I never had the blessings to meet Hank in person, although he is most certainly a well respected and dedicated man in the field of disabilities. I have sought out his assistance with some information and education materials in the past. His work, presentations and publishings will be cherished in my memory (and bookshelf). May he rest in peace and prayers out to his family.

  133. Hank was passionate about WOU and also about his alma mater, Syracuse University. It was through the Stumptown Orange, SU’s Portland alumni club, that I came to know the Bersanis. Our club will miss Hank and our thoughts are with Lynda.

  134. Hank, I am so grateful for your patience, your wisdom, and your good counsel. You taught with passion, sprinkled with a healthy dose of humor. Thank you for the opportunity to have taught your class and your kind offer to teach again. I know your influence will be felt in the work of those who too will teach and guide others. Your passion for those with physical or mental challenges will continue. Thank you so much for allowing me to be a small part of your life. Clayton

  135. I have to say two thing about him that i will missed: 1. I always enjoy meeting him in the Education Building and taking a few moment to chat every morning. 2. This man take all the challenges and he included using American Sign Language. I don’t meet that many Professor do that. May God find comfort with his family.

  136. I met Hank as a fellow graduate student at Syracuse in the 1970s and saw him again only a few years ago at a conference in Canada. He was the same genial, animated, freidnly person that I had remembered–the child (or graduate student) had indeed become father to the man. He was an original thinker in his student days and went on to do great things for vulnerable people and those who serve them. May he rest in peace. My sincere condolences to Lynda and their children.

  137. Words cannot express the shock I felt, and I”m sure that we all felt, when I read the words that told me that Hank was no longer lighting the world with his presence. I only knew him briefly. I had him as a professor this winter, but in that short time his passion for the field of special education inspired my passion for children with disabilities more than I ever thought possible. His passing leaves an unfathomable void in so many hearts. My prayers go out to his family, and friends.

  138. I only met Hank once when he presented on The Forgotten Children at the Catholic House near campus, yet the memory of his passion and compassion for all people is strong in me.

    My condolences to the education community at WOU and to his family.

    Nancy J. Bow man Holt

  139. Hank was my professor in my very first special education class. He got me engaged in the field and excited to start my career. I was lucky enough to have him for 2 classes. He was always cracking jokes and bringing light to even the sensitive topics. My most fond memory of Hank was when his eyes light up when he talked about his friend Bernard. I remember thinking class was long, now i realize our time together wasn’t long enough. We all miss you.

  140. Your infectious smile and good heartedness will be missed here at WOU. May God bless your soul and may you rest in peace.

  141. Hank was one of the people who got me through college, He made me realize what sort of advocate I can be for the disabled population helped me become who I am today. After I took his class in the SP of what would of been my final year in 09 he came up to the camp that I worked at and that was truly special, That fall he saw me and he was like “shouldn’t you be gone what are you still doing here? and when I graduated in the spring of 2010 the pure joy that I saw on his face walking through all the teacher was amazing he knew how hard I worked and with his support I got through it. Hank May you rest in peace and you will be missed by many.

    Emily Smith
    Class of 2010

  142. Hank was one of those rare individuals who never knew a stranger and who looked for the best in all who he met. My condolence to his his family: Lynda, Alex, and Lisa; his WOU colleagues, his students.

  143. Reading through these beautiful testimonials, I am struck by the number of people who were moved to write something, though they didn’t personally know Hank. They knew OF him, but hadn’t had the opportunity to become a colleague or friend.

    I find that remarkable. His reputation and way of being were so infectious, folks who hadn’t caught the “Hank Bug” feel left out.

    Hank Bersani could have had a career as a stand up comic, though that wouldn’t have impacted the world nearly enough for him to feel fulfilled. His booming laugh was the best way to start a day. And he had a rare ability to laugh at himself. Years ago, when he first became chair of the department, he posted his picture on his office bulletin board — I think he still had a bit of that “In case someone doesn’t know who I am” humility — and I made post-it cut-out accessories for his picture. A party hat, a top hat, glasses, a tie. Pretty quickly, other accessories appeared on the borders of the picture, and students would stop by to “re-dress” the photo. I have often suspected that many of those accessories were created by Hank himself. At any rate, the picture and accessories remained for quite some time.

    Lynda, Alex, Lisa… I am so sorry; I cannot even begin to imagine the loss you feel. I hope that the love that is pouring from these comments helps in some way.

  144. Although I did not know Dr. Bersani well, his kindness, caring, wicked wit, and downright excitement for life shone brightly every time I had occasion to chat with him. He will be deeply missed. My condolences to his family.

  145. I will miss the “Heyyyy Sue”, delivered like a sad puppy when he needed something fixed or an excited child when he had some cool new thing he was working on. You never knew what the next project was going to be always so interesting to hear what new research he was working on this time. And now matter what always left you smiling.
    Such enthusiasm, humor joy and kindness. I will really miss working with him.
    My heartfelt sympathy to his family, he is such a huge loss.

  146. Hank was one of my professors several years ago. I learned so much from him about low-incidence disabilities. He often made us laugh, and I always enjoyed his classes.
    I am so sad to hear about his passing. His family and colleagues are in my thoughts and prayers.

  147. Hank had an enthusiasm for life that was as infectious as it was enviable. I always enjoyed my interactions with him and often came away more enlightened. The hallways of the College of Education are not as colorful without him. My heartfelt condolences to Lynda and the rest of his family.

  148. Hank Bersani brightened every life he touched. I am sad for our loss. My condolences to his family, I am sorry for their loss.

  149. Even though I never met you, never saw you, I will miss you, and all the life you brought to campus. May God be with you and your family and give them endless strength and comfort.

  150. Thank You all so very much for your thoughtful comments. It means a lot to the entire family and puts into perspective how dedicated he was to such a great cause and his work in this field.
    Thanks again for your support!
    Cameron Brown- Hank’s nefew.

  151. I have very fond memories of Hank. As I turned on my soft jazz music this morning, it reminded me again of him. He enjoyed listening to music too, and at 7:30 in the morning in his office, he would have it cranked up loud; I think everyone in the Education Building could probably hear it. He was just an awesome guy, great sense of humor, and made me laugh a lot. I loved it that he took sign language classes so he could better communicate with his students and colleagues who are deaf. He was definitely a people person, and is missed. Prayers for comfort for his family.

  152. Pingback: Celebration of Life to be held in honor of Dr. Hank Bersani « WOUnews

  153. I received the news from a friend at OHSU and we both shared our sorrow and the blessing that we had the opportuntiy to know Hank. I used to tease him about following me to WOU from OHSU and when I left WOU if he was intending to follow me to my new destination. It was obvious in talking with him and seeing him interact with students and staff that he had found his “landing place” at WOU. I will think of him as I am riding and remember the passion with which he lived life, a lesson for all. To his family: Thank you for allowing us to share in this celebration of Hank. My thoughts are with you and I wish you peace.

  154. I met Hank at graduate school at Syracuse University when he was teaching Normalization with Dr.Wolfensberger. I immediately came to admire, respect and like Hank for his good humor, passion for combatting the devaluation of vulnerable people, and great teaching style. Hank had a wonderful way with all people and he supported many people in achieving the “good life.” We attended a friend’s 50th and 60th birthdays, someone Hank helped get out of an institution. I will miss Hank personally and will remember his wonderful contributions. My sincere condolences to Lynda and his children. Peace

  155. Hank Bersani was the consummate university professor who taught and researched at the highest level — these qualities are irrefutable. However, I believe that his greatest gift and legacy will be his compassion and his deep humanity for all beings. He spent a lifetime learning to understand the suffering of others and how to ameliorate and support them through his research and teaching and his bright spirit. When Gandhi was asked what message he had to offer others, his response was “My life is my message.” Hank’s life was truly his message. Now it is our responsibility to continue his legacy by walking the world for him with a compassionate heart and unconditional love. Hank, thank you for showing us the way.

  156. In my first year at ODE Hank willingly volunteered his time to come a read Title IIA grants for me. I was always very appreciative of not only his willingness to take his time to assist, but also his ability to provide excellent feedback to grantees. I have to say I learned as much if not more from his reviews of the grants. He will be missed.

    • I could not believe my ears when I heard the news of the sudden dearth of Dr, Hank. I took three special education classes taught by Dr Hank.He was a great teacher and genuine caring gentleman.Dr.Hank is dead but he is alive through many lives that he touched. I will never forget him. May his soul rest in perfect peace.Rest in peace great teacher.

  157. I never personally met Dr. Bersani, but like so many people at WOU he always had a smile when I would cross paths with him on campus. Obviously, by the outpouring of comments here he was an amazing person. My heartfelt condolences to his wife and family, and to all those to whom he was important. He has left a great legacy.

  158. Hank Bersani was a wonderful teacher, one I felt so fortunate to have known. What a great loss for WOU and all of you who worked so closely with him. His humor will be greatly missed. I took his contemporary issues class in 2003 as a 58 year old masters student. He was so encouraging, entertaining, and practical, perfect for what I needed at that time of my life. He will be so missed. My heart goes out to his family, whom he spoke so highly of and to all of the staff who worked so closely with him.

  159. I never knew anyone who could teach with such passion and humor, emotions he lived in his daily life with people with disabilities and other friends and colleagues. Although 3,000 miles away, he was always at the end of the line to share and talk. We will all miss him and our prayers go out to his family.

  160. I will miss him. He was always there to be supportive. Hank was a good colleague and great to be around. I was proud to call him my friend.

  161. Hank came to speak to a group of parents here in Boulder about 20 years ago. I remember it still. He told us to remember to tell the truth. Our fears for the future are “Who will love my child?” when I am gone. He told us to begin to tell the community why you love your child, and the community will get to know and accept them, and they will begin to be safe. Advice well taken. I am grateful to him, and pray that God will bring comfort to his family.

  162. I feel so fortunate to have been able to take classes from Hank. I can’t imagine what type of special educator I would have been had I not met him. His love for his family and friends was abundant in his stories. In times like this it is easy to wonder why??????? I am still trying to wrap my head around the fact that he is no longer here. The hallways are so empty without his smile and laugh. I would have never told him but he reminded me of Rodney Dangerfield with his humor and personality. He is and always will be missed even from the students who did not have the pleasure of meeting him. Thank you Hank for pushing me to try my best and encouraging me to stick in this field even when times were tough. I will forever remember you and will take what I have learned from you into the field to be the best special educator that I can possibly be.

  163. Dr. Bersani was a fantastic professor and and a wonderful person to know. He was hilarious and had a great perspective of the world. His presence at WOU is missed.

  164. I recently found out about Hank’s passing, and I was shocked. I was attempting to reach him and ask for the letter of reference. I used to teach at WOU, and our offices were next to each other. He was always nice and supportive toward me as he knew some American Sign Language (ASL). Once he invited me to talk to his class, and he wrote me a very nice thank you note which is my invaluable possession. I also spoke in his wife’s class on Hank’s recommendation. I heard some of his stories which became my stories to tell others. Yes, He was great to know and love.

  165. Pingback: Western Oregon University professor dies in bicycle accident | KOIN

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