UCF grieves sudden loss of Dr. Bill Safranek
Editor's note: This story was originally published on February, 24, 2014.
On the morning of Feb. 18, UCF students were alerted through email and text message that Dr. Bill Safranek, an assistant professor in the College of Medicine, had died in an automobile accident the night before in Brevard County.
The sad news of the loss of the UCF professor of nearly 20 years spread like wildfire on social media outlets, and the claims were reinforced as reports began showing up on local news outlets about the accident that occurred at about 10 p.m.
Students including Jeff Alphonse, a senior majoring in biology at UCF went immediately to social media to express their condolences for the loss.
Alphonse recalls how he learned of the death of one of his favorite professors.
"My friend texted me Tuesday morning after he received a text from UCF. I didn't think it was legitimate at first but then my other friends from health science and biomedical sciences confirmed it on Facebook. I was tremendously shocked and saddened [to see] that happen to a great professor," Alphonse said.
Other students took to Twitter to express their feelings about losing a professor who was described as "an outstanding educator who was passionate about sharing his love of science with undergraduate students" by Dr. Deborah German, vice president for medical affairs and dean of the medical school.
The overall sentiment on Twitter was that UCF has lost an educator who made a lasting impact in his field and on the students he taught.
"RIP Dr. Safranek, thank you for all your help in building UCF's Biomedical Sciences program to where it is today," Kelsey Ladd, a junior majoring in biomedical sciences atUCF, posted on Twitter on Tuesday.
"Dr. Safranek changed my life. He got me into research, gave me direction. He impacted so, so many people, and he'll be dearly missed," Aaron Ledray, a senior UCF student majoring in biomedical sciences and biotechnology science posted on Twitter on Tuesday.
Safranek had the highest teaching load in the Burnett Honors College's history, which included teaching multiple microbiology classes and labs while also providing internship opportunities and interview coaching to pre-health professional students. In addition to his work at UCF, he also mentored Central Florida high school students in his spare time.
Sean Chagani, a first-year medical student at the UCF College of Medicine still remembers taking Safranek's class his freshman year at UCF and how much of an impact he made on him in his first year of college.
"I hope his students don't take his enthusiasm during lecture for granted. His fascination with the microbial world made his lectures equally as entertaining as informative. I also want people to remember how he dedicated his time outside of class. I did a 'mock medical school' interview with him prior to interviewing for medical school. He recorded it for me, gave me some pointers, and explained the interview process. This was on his own time, in his office, and he did this for everyone who was nervous or wanted to practice their interview skills," Chagani said. "He was dedicated to helping UCF students achieve success in and out of class. And I wouldn't say that about many professors at UCF."
Safranek's enthusiasm for teaching did not go unnoticed as he was the College of Medicine's Founders' Day honoree for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 2013 and received the UCF Teaching Incentive Program (TIP) Award in 2010.
The commitment the professor showed to his students was something that Alexander LaMee, a senior majoring in molecular and microbiology, knew firsthand. LaMee had been working with Safranek on a research project since spring of 2011 and had developed a close friendship with the professor who had become his mentor throughout the past three years.
"Him and I actually stayed late on campus the Tuesday before he passed, talking about our Valentine's Day plans and other random things while waiting for me to finish the lab work," LaMee said. "I remember he was planning on stopping by the store on his way home from work to buy flowers for his wife, and he said my girlfriend should appreciate the plans I had for her."
A table with paper and pens and a photo of the UCF professor has been set up in front ofSafranek's office in the Health and Public Affairs II building where people can leave gifts and write letters to pay their respects.
On Feb. 23 the UCF College of Medicine held a ceremony in celebration of Safranek's life at the Fairwinds Alumni Center, and an endowed undergraduate scholarship will be established in his honor.