The social work department was forced to say goodbye to a one-of-a-kind professor.
Stephen Yanca, who taught at the university for more than 19 years, recently lost his battle with cancer.
Lucy Mercier, associate professor of social work said Yanca was always willing to help out.
“If we needed something done, he would be the one to step up and do it,” Mercier said.
Yanca was active in the faculty association and also took over co-authorship of some commonly used social work textbooks.
He was chair of the social work department when he died.
Donald Bachand, provost and vice president for academic affairs and one of Yanca’s close friends, said the position suited him well, although it didn’t particularly strike his fancy.
“He didn’t relish administrative work, but he did it because he thought it was his turn,” Bachand said.
Yanca was all about fair treatment, especially when it came to students.
Bachand said Yanca referred to his students as colleagues because in the near future they would be practicing in his same area of expertise.
He wanted students to have the best professional experience possible so they would be prepared for the future.
“He was probably one of the most fierce student advocates I’ve ever met,” Bachand said.
Gina Papandrea, a recent social work graduate and one of Yanca’s former students, said Yanca was a popular and well-liked professor.
“Everyone in the program knew who he was, whether you were a new student or a graduating senior,” she said.
Papandrea graduated in May and is enrolled in graduate school at Wayne State University.
She said she always keeps Yanca’s famous line in mind: “It depends.”
Yanca believed the slogan was useful for predicaments social workers may find themselves in with clients.
Mercier said the professor’s straightforwardness caused some to be intimidated by him.
However, she said once people got to know him there was nothing to be afraid of.
“He was really a marshmallow,” Mercier said.
Bachand said Yanca was a “feisty guy,” but described him as a considerate man with a soft heart.
“In all the years I knew this guy I never had a cross word with him,” Bachand said.
Yanca left behind his wife, Beverly, and three children.
He was a dedicated Michigan State fan, as he graduated from there with his doctorate.
Although his MSU pride shined through, Bachand said above all he was SVSU’s number one fan.
“This is his place. He liked it and he supported it,” Bachand said. “I think he really made a big contribution here.“
The university plans to create a scholarship in Yanca’s name.
A memorial service is also scheduled to take place in the fall, giving students, faculty and staff an opportunity to share memories and celebrate Yanca’s life.