Slava Yastremski, beloved professor, remembered by colleagues and students

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Reed Widdoes, Staff Writer

Every once in a while, a special person reaches out and touches the lives of everyone in a community: inspiring them, teaching them, and lifting them to become better, more interesting versions of themselves. 

On Nov. 13, the University lost one of those special people. Professor of Russian Studies and Comparative Humanities Slava Yastremski passed away at the age of 63, surrounded by his family after battling a short illness. 

Yastremski was born and raised in Moscow. He graduated from the Moscow State Theatrical Institute from the Department of Theater History and Dramatic Literature. In 1975, Yastremski and his family immigrated to the United States. 

Yastremski completed his Ph.D in Slavic Languages and Literatures from the University of Kansas. He then spent nine years at Yale University as the coordinator of Russian language instruction while teaching and producing plays at Middlebury College’s Russian Summer School. In 1990, Yastremski joined the University.

In his 25 years as a University faculty member, Yastremski helped further the development of the Russian Studies, Comparative Humanities, and Film/Media Studies programs. Yastremski also served as the academic co-coordinator for the Residential Colleges program; he even began this year as the instructor for a class in the Languages and Cultures College. 

“Slava was a passionate and dedicated professor. You could tell he cared about each and every individual student in his classes,” Emma Wagner ’19, a student in Yastremski’s “Travel Culture: Art, Food, Politics” course said.

Yastremski’s passions also took him outside of the traditional classroom setting. Using his love of Russian theater, he provided lessons on life.

“Slava loved his job, and he loved his students, especially. Over the years, Slava mentored countless students, often following and guiding their study and careers for years beyond the classroom,” Professor of Linguistics James Lavine said.

“A few of us would get together every couple of weeks to discuss European soccer and Slava was the proverbial glue that held that group together,” Associate Professor of Spanish Collin McKinney said. “Whether it was chatting at the bar about soccer, or discussing curricular issues in the Residential College program, Slava was always good company.”

Yastremski strived to show new perspectives to those he knew.

“I think his calling in life was to be a bridge, a bridge between languages, between cultures, between media, and between generations … he brought a unique vision of the world to his classes, demanding a lot of his students, knowing that their reward would be a transformed understanding of what it meant to be human,” Professor of German Studies and Comparative Humanities Katherine Faull said.

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