A Common Grief

As students, professors, and administrators return from winter break, they return to a community less full and less vibrant than the one which inhabited College Hill barely two months ago.

It is with great sadness that The Brown Daily Herald remembers today the passing of Professor of Computer Science Paris Kanellakis and psychotherapist Maria-Teresa Otoya. And while we mourn the loss of two accomplished individuals, let us also remember their two young children, Alexandra and Stephanos, who will never get to reach the potential that was universally recognized in their parents.

While these deaths were shocking in that they highlighted the arbitrary and unfair nature of death, their lives were a testament to the ability of a committed individual to radically affect those around them.

In the case of Paris Kanellakis, that was seen in the field of computer science. But Kanellakis reached beyond the sometimes cold world of the machine to earn the respect and admiration of his colleagues and students alike. He did not use his research, focused in databases and models of computation, as a means of preventing him from reaching out to a larger community, but rather as a springboard into the personal world of mentoring, teaching, and serving on editorial boards. Kanellakis not only embraced his work - he embraced his community, and we will all miss that spirit, and this man who embodied it.

Friends and colleagues often joked that to Maria-Teresa Otoya, the world was perfect -- that she never had a bad word for anyone. If this tragedy has showed us anything, it is that the world is not perfect. Now, with Otoya gone, we see that it was more perfect solely by virtue of her presence. When we speak of the Brown community, we often speak of it as an entity that offers comfort, support and motivation for all who are a part of it. Maria-Teresa Otoya helped bring that vision closer to reality. She embraced her Colombian background, and took a special interest in helping Hispanic, Latino, and international students find their place in this community. Her caring and understanding were not limited to the international community, though. Otoya's professional skills and unparalleled personal warmth touched all who entered her office -- or just happened to pass by it. Her wonderful presence will be all the more conspicuous for its absence.

Perhaps Computer Science professor Stanley Zdonik best voices the sentiments of the Brown community on the passing of two of its own, "I don't know if we smile as much as we used to, and I don't know when it will get better."

This material is Copyright ©1996, The Brown Daily Herald, Inc. You may not reproduce this material in any form without the permission of The Brown Daily Herald.

This story appeared in The Herald: Wednesday, January 24, 1996