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January 21, 2013 - 11:54pm

Engineering school holds memorial for late lecturer


The College of Engineering came together on Friday evening to celebrate the life of Jason Daida.

The memorial service for Daida, who was an associate research scientist and lecturer, included speeches from his co-workers, friends and students; a dramatic reading from Daida’s church group; and the signing of a memorial tree.

After battling cancer, Daida, 53, passed away on the evening of Jan. 9. He interacted with nearly a third of the incoming Engineering freshmen class through his introductory courses.

Those who spoke at the memorial service remarked on Daida’s eccentricity and unconventional approaches to lecturing. Lorelle Meadows, assistant dean for academic programs recounted her first meeting with Daida.

“He was all over the room. He was bouncing from one side of the room to another,” Meadows said. “He completely filled the board with lines and squiggles and arrows and used words in ways that I truly didn’t expect and, in some cases, understand.”

Students also shared the common sentiment that Daida not only expanded their technical knowledge, but also impacted their personal lives. Daida was remembered for the firm yet affectionate way of “setting (his students) straight.” He also allowed students from abroad to spend time with his own family during Thanksgiving and Winter Breaks if they didn’t have the means to return home for the holidays.

Engineering junior Michael Mull told the story of his first introductory Engineering course, where Daida not only showed up to class late, but humorously entered “raving mad, running up and down the aisle, hands flailing in the air” only to run up to the lecture stage and hide behind the podium. Daida’s point, Mull said, was to show that he felt just as nervous and unsure as the freshmen in his class did.

“It was hard for us, as freshmen coming in, thinking that we knew everything but not knowing anything at all,” Mull said. “On that first day of class, he made us feel like we belonged.”

Denise-Margaret Thompson, Daida’s friend and peer at Stanford University, spoke about the most important “three f’s” in Daida's life: “his family, his friends and his faith.”

Engineering senior Carrine Yarina said though his courses were introductory, Daida showed his students that his lessons were important.

“He believed that all of us had great potential, that our ideas weren't just class projects and that they were lessons for life and potential opportunities."