Slava Yastremski, in memoriam: Honoring a life well lived

Reed Widdoes, Staff Writer

Slava Yastremski, beloved professor of Russian and Comparative Humanities, taught his students how to lead a full and meaningful life; he immensely influenced those who knew and loved him. These were some of the sentiments expressed by students, faculty, and friends at a memorial service held on Jan. 30 in his honor. Yastremski passed away on Nov. 13 after a brief illness.

The University held the service in connection with a local Russian Orthodox church to commemorate his passing. Yastremski was born in Moscow in 1952 and immigrated to the United States in 1975. He received his doctorate in Slavic languages and literatures from the University of Kansas, eventually joining the University faculty in 1990. The professor dedicated the last 25 years of his life to educating the students of this campus and was instrumental in creating and launching the Residential College program as well as the Programs in Comparative Humanities and Film Studies.

The ceremony began with a Russian Orthodox commemoration and was followed by the recounting of many stories with and lessons learned from Yastremski. A recurring theme of the service involved the translation of ‘Slava’ to the English language; Dr. Michael Naydan, Woskob Family Professor of Ukrainian Studies and Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Pennsylvania State University, revealed that Slavas name means glory in English.

“For me, for all of us who knew him, Slava is the complete realization of his name,” Naydan said. Many others in attendance spoke about this same idea–that Yastremski had become an embodiment of his own name.

Professor of German Studies and Comparative Humanities Katherine Faull expressed how touched she was by Yastremski’s uncanny ability to form connections between cultures.

Slava built bridges to some very faraway places, tilting the globe and asking us to step outside our North American center of gravity,” Faull said. Faull concluded this to be one of the many reasons she was so honored to have worked alongside such a profound teacher of life.

Naydan praised Yastremski, calling him an infinitely generous” man who devoted his time to bringing joy to others. Those in attendance, and the University community at large, will remember Yastremski in such a sentiment.

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