Laker community mourns the death of professor

Headline: Laker community mourns the death of professor

Subhead: Students, faculty remember the life of Steve Hecht 

By: Hannah Lentz

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The Laker community lost one of its own Wednesday, April 5, after Steve Hecht, associate professor at Grand Valley State University, collapsed walking near the Cook-DeWitt Center.

Hecht came to GVSU as an assistant professor in the biomedical sciences (BMS) department in 1999 and was promoted to associate professor in 2004. Remembered by colleagues as passionate and knowledgeable, Hecht will be missed after years at the university. 

“Steve was a wonderful colleague—bright, witty, knowledgeable about a rich spectrum of things, an aficionado of Robert Frost,” said Frederick Antczak, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS). “Far more importantly, Steve was a gifted teacher-scholar. He was dedicated to his students, advising many who aspired to study nursing or the health professions.”

In addition to his generosity with his students, Hecht also served several terms on the CLAS Personnel Committee and provided great service to colleagues across the college, Antczak said. 

“Already, the tributes are pouring in from people who are saying different variations of ‘I wouldn’t be a doctor/nurse/any professional health role without Dr. Hecht,'” Antczak said. 

Before his death, Hecht was working on viral ways of lessening the environmental pressure on bees, another example of his contributions to the community, Antczak said. Through this work, Hecht was collaborating with undergraduate students and biomedical sciences professor Tony Nieuwkoop to see if they could develop phage therapy for bees. Hecht had hoped to find viruses to target bacteria and benefit bees that could help these pollinators that humans rely so heavily upon for our agriculture.

In a statement released by Antczak and David Kurjiaka, acting chair of biomedical sciences, the two talked of Hecht’s scholarly expertise. At GVSU, Hecht taught 15 different courses. 

In addition to his teaching, Hecht was a thoughtful and devoted faculty adviser who helped many BMS students who aspired to enter programs in microbiology and other health-related sciences, the statement read.

“I liked and admired him very much,” Antczak said. “His is a personal loss for everyone whom he touched and a professional loss for the department of biomedical sciences and all of Grand Valley State University.”

Hecht is survived by his wife, Jodi; his son, Eric; his father, Harry; his sister, Muriel; and numerous extended relatives. Hecht was preceded in death by his mother, Joan, and two infant sisters, Gretchen Kay and Sarah Sue. Funeral arrangements were held Monday, April 10, at 11 a.m. in Grandville, Michigan.

“He was the consummate teacher, always working to improve his craft. Steve was just an overall outstanding teacher that students respected immensely,” said Daniel Bergman, assistant professor and chair of the biomedical sciences department. “He truly cared about his students and their success. Faculty and staff also had the utmost respect for Steve, and personally, whenever I needed advice or guidance, I would go directly to Steve. He was a voice of wisdom for me and the biomedical sciences department. He will be profoundly missed by all.”

Memorial contributions in Hecht’s name may be directed to The Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration at