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In Memoriam: Steve Constantine (1955 - 2013) - services held on July 15

Wed May 8, 2013

Dr. Stephen Constantine died suddenly on May 4, 2013 at his home. Dr. Constantine was a half-time Senior Lecturer in the School of Computer Science, and he also held a half-time appointment in the College of Engineering. He also served as a faculty adviser for the UMass Chapter of Engineers Without Borders.

Professor Lori Clarke, Chair of the School of Computer Science, noted that “Steve was a dedicated teacher who encouraged his students to think about how computing was positively and negatively impacting society. Because of his degrees in English and Mathematics, he was the perfect instructor for our junior writing program. We are saddened that he will no longer be teaching our students, but proud that he was such a valuable member of our faculty while he was with us.”

Dr. Constantine joined UMass Amherst CS in 1997, first with a graduate student teaching assistantship while completing his Ph.D. in English and later as a Lecturer in Computer Science. He was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2009. Over his years on campus, he also taught courses in the English, Mathematics and Statistics, and Exercise Science departments. From 1981-1991, he was a graduate teaching assistant and later a lecturer for the Learning Skills Center, both at Cornell University.

Outside of UMass Amherst, Steve also spent time teaching. For the past 12 seasons, Steve was the coach of the Northampton High School Boys Swim team. During his years of coaching, the team moved from B division to A division, won Western Mass. Championships, and received League Sportsmanship Awards. In addition, since 2007, he was a volunteer tutor of English as a Second Language through the International Language Institute in Northampton, MA.

In May 2006, Steve received his Ph.D. in English from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. His dissertation was “By a Gentle Force Compell’d: An Analysis of Rape in Eighteenth-Century English Fact and Fiction.” He received a B.A. in Economics from Harvard University in 1976 and an M.S. in Mathematics from Cornell University in 1985.

Steve was beloved by CS students who consistently raved about his classes. Among many others, he taught the junior year writing course, Social Issues in Computing. A few student comments posted on ratemyprofessors.com shows how much he enjoyed teaching and how much he meant to the students.

“I have had a very enjoyable semester in CS 305. Professor Constantine starts many interesting debates and shines a new light on material many have only seen one way. … Overall, great teacher and person and almost everyone will enjoy this class!”  [12/7/12  CS305]

“He's an amazing professor. Always willing to help and very clear about what he wants in your papers. Lots of writing, but if you pay attention and proofread your papers you'll do great. He's also wonderful for getting the class thinking, and is great at sparking debates. Definitely the best teacher for CS305!” [11/14/12  CS 305]

“Constantine is one of the best professors I have ever had. He is interested in having his students actually learn and wants them to succeed and become better writers.” [12/15/04 ENGIN 390W]

“Steve is the greatest! His classes are thought provoking and engaging. He's intelligent and articulate. He's also one of the nicest teachers/people at the University.”  [4/17/03 CS 305]

“Such a great class. Definitely my favorite CS prof and one of the best in the school in all subjects I've taken! You'll never meet a nicer guy.”  [4/6/03 CS 305]

“It was heartbreaking to read the student evaluation comments on Steve for this term, filed before his death,” says Professor David Mix Barrington, CS Associate Chair. “Several students said that he was the best Computer Science teacher they had ever had, and many praised the community of free discussion he created in the classroom. Along with the writing course, he also taught two different discrete mathematics courses for us. It was a pleasure for me to work with him in developing those.”

Steve, in a teaching statement written in 2009, said, “I feel I have succeeded with a course, if, at the end of the semester, I get a student evaluation such as the following (which was from an unhappy student): ‘The teacher tried to make us think too much.’ I want my students to think, and also to enjoy thinking and to realize the value of doing so. For many years now I’ve been encouraging students to think; I hope to continue doing so for many years to come.”

“Steve was a tremendous asset for our undergraduate program - a tech-savvy writing instructor who brought boundless generosity and good-will to all who came in contact with him,” adds Associate Professor Robbert Moll, CS Associate Chair for Academic Programs. “While he was firm when he had to be, he will surely be remembered by students for his kindness and understanding, and for the amazing rapport he was able to establish with all who attended his classes. He will be greatly missed.”

Steve is survived by his two daughters, Rebecca Constantine, a graduate student at Stanford University, and Alison Maayana Miskin, who lives in Haifa Israel with her family; and by his four granddaughters, his mother, two brothers, two sisters and a large extended family. He also is survived by his former wife Ruth Constantine, who welcomes condolences addressed to her daughters at her home at 111 Whittier St., Florence.

A celebration of life service for Steve was held on Monday, July 15th at 11 a.m. at Look Park in Northampton, followed by lunch at noon.  The service was at the outdoor 'sanctuary' pavilion next to Willow Lake in the park, with lunch across the park in the Garden House.

Donations in Steve’s memory for undergraduate scholarships may be made to the UMass Amherst School of Computer Science, 140 Governors Drive, Amherst, MA 01003-9264.