November 16, 2009 — Eric L. Dey, professor and associate director of the University of Virginia's Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning, died unexpectedly Nov. 4. He was 47.
Dey was traveling to join colleagues at the Association for the Study of Higher Education conference in Vancouver, British Columbia.
A former professor at the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education at the University of Michigan, he had recently joined the faculty of U.Va.'s Curry School of Education.
"We were eagerly anticipating the positive impact he and his work would make on his students, colleagues, the University of Virginia and the larger field of the study of higher education," Curry School Dean Robert Pianta said.
Through his years at Michigan and UCLA, Dey earned the reputation as an expert on conducting large-scale, multi-institutional studies of higher education. His research examined how colleges and universities shape the lives and experiences of those who study and work within them, and was founded on the belief in the importance of developing research with application to the understanding and practice of higher education.
"Dey was a brilliant scholar as well as a kind and generous friend to many. He will be missed," said Brian Pusser, associate professor and director of the Curry School's Center for the Study of Higher Education.
Dey played a central role in the Association of American Colleges & Universities' national initiative, "Core Commitments: Educating Students for Personal and Social Responsibility."
Caryn McTighe Musil, senior vice president of the association, said, "He leaves a legacy of research that offers a blueprint for how to create enabling college environments that open up educational opportunities for all, promote student development and learning, and raise moral questions about what it means to lead lives of personal and social responsibility."
Dey's untimely death cuts short a promising career marked by many achievements and honors, Musil said. In 1998, he was selected as one of 40 "Young Leaders of the Academy" by Change magazine and received the Early Career Achievement Award from the Association for the Study of Higher Education. He was also a member of the team of social scientists tapped to provide research on the educational effects of diverse student bodies; this work was foundational to the Supreme Court's decision supporting the continuing use of affirmative action in college admissions.
Dey is survived by his partner, Casey White; his mother Marlene Beth Jones; his father, Glen Raymond Dey; and his sister, Ann Marie Dey. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Lance Armstrong Foundation.