RHIANNON BERG; News Editor; firstname.lastname@example.org
“You only go around once in life, so you’ve got to grab the gusto,” Professor William Teska told colleagues and students during his time at PLU. Community members mourn his death and remember his Teska-isms, sense of humor and wisdom.
Teska, who friends and colleagues fondly called Bill, died at home of natural causes June 25, according to an open letter from President Krise.
“Bill leaves a lasting legacy in PLU’s Environmental Studies Program, and a huge hole in the hearts of many PLU students, fellow faculty members, and a wide circle of friends around the world who had the good fortune to study with him throughout Central and South America,” Krise wrote.
The biology professor led the PLU J-term class in Ecuador for multiple years and planned to be the site director for the PLU Gateway program in Oaxaca, Mexico this fall.
“As a department, we have all been rocked to the core by this loss,” biology professor Heidi Schutz told The Mast via email Thursday. She accompanied Dr. Teska on the Ecuador trip last year.
Teska valued supporting the research efforts of Latin American scholars and local economies, Schutz said. She recalled that he had a rich sense of humor, many “Teska-isms” and “one of the best laughs.”
Professor Romey Haberle, who went with Teska to Ecuador with Teska in 2014, told The Mast he was a “magnificent teacher, friend and mentor who modeled for both students and colleagues an engaged way to learn and grow by deeply caring about natural spaces.”
“The letters I’ve gotten from some former students we both taught and mentored have just been incredible,” she wrote. “One of the striking things about Dr. Teska is how connected these alumni are and what an impact he made in their lives.”
“YOGAO quickly became the mantra of our whirlwind program in Ecuador,” Emily Steelquist, a class of 2016 graduate, wrote on Facebook.
“We were so lucky to be able to travel with Dr. Teska in the regions of the world that he loved most,” Steelquist told The Mast. “It was a glimpse into both his life’s work as a researcher and his passions as an educator. We are better global citizens because of him.”
The two-time fulbright fellowship recipient came to PLU in 2000. In the past 16 years he’s held multiple positions including: biology professor, associate provost and chair of PLU’s environmental studies program.
Teska was committed to helping people and the environment. He volunteered at Oasis, a Pierce County community outreach and education center for LGBTQ youth, served on the Pride Foundation scholarship and grants committee, and volunteered for the Puget Creek Restoration Society, according to Krise’s letter.
He taught students to, “take on challenges and opportunities as they came to us even if they take us a little bit out of our comfort zone, because we ‘only go around once in life,’” senior Ashley Connor wrote on Facebook. “You may be gone, Dr. Teska, but you will certainly not be forgotten. Your legacy lives on.”