Dr. Richard Port, a psychology professor at Slippery Rock University, died late Monday night into early Tuesday morning after losing his battle with cancer, according to an email sent to the staff of the psychology department.
Dr. Port was the former chair of the psychology department before his condition forced him to step down, according to Francine Bond, 56-year-old psychology professor who is teaching Dr. Port’s course load this semester. Bond was a nontraditional student studying psychology at SRU between 2006 and 2008, where she first met Dr. Port.
“He was such a big part of my education and I felt like he was a friend,” Bond said.
Bond worked as a tollbooth operator before going to SRU, where she was originally studying elementary education until she had class with Dr. Port.
“His enthusiasm (about psychology) was almost contagious,” Bond said. “I also feel that he had such an impact on my life, talking to him about switching my major—I hold him as the most pivotal reason I switched to psychology.”
Dr. Port was always there for not only his students, but for any psychology student according to Lyndsie Yochum, a 20-year-old psychology major who worked on research with Dr. Port.
“He helped me find out where I should go to grad school,” Yochum said. “We started doing research last semester on Neurogenesis, but about three weeks into the semester he had to leave due to his illness.”
According to Yochum, students really respected him and for the most part enjoyed his classes.
“He was a tough professor but he made class fun,” Yochum said. “And was always there to help you. He had this open door policy in his office, that as long as he was sitting in there—no matter what you could ask him anything.”
This sentiment was reinforced by Bond.
“So many students came to him for advice and for guidance,” Bond said. “Even if they weren’t his advisees they still knew they could turn to him.”
While Dr. Port wasn’t Yochum’s advisor, she still found herself turning to him for help.
“He was more than a teacher or advisor—he was like a father figure,” Yochum said.
Dr. Port’s death came as a shock to the entire Slippery Rock community, according to Bond and Yochum—who both expected him to come back either this semester or next fall.
“It’s been a huge shock because we did not know that he was that close to death,” Bond said. “We had no idea—we thought he was coming back. Everyone’s numb, it’s hard to sink in. From my perspective, as a student and even now coming in trying to do the best teaching his classes—I knew that I was very capable of teaching but could never fill Dr. Port’s shoes—I just felt that if anybody could beat cancer, Dr. Port could do it because he just had that kind of a spirit and presence in here.”
Yochum was completely taken off guard as well.
“None of the professors would tell us (students) what was really going on,” Yochum said. “They just kept saying that he was sick.”
Everyone seems to be taking Dr. Port’s death pretty hard, according to Bond—but she believes that the ones who knew Dr. Port need to remember how lucky they were to know him.
“Anyone who knew Dr. Port was lucky to know him,” Bond said. “They were enriched to know him—just by his presence. His presence was just larger than life, and anyone who had him for a teacher, an advisor or friend was a blessed person.”
Dr. Port is survived by his wife Barbara and their children Chris, Charlie, and Amy. Calling hours will be held at the Cunningham Funeral Home in Grove City, on Monday, April 9 between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. and again from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Funeral Services are taking place at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, April 10 in Grace Methodist Church.