Former professor, tennis supporter honored

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SVSU honored late math professor Todorka “Dora” Nedeva on Saturday with a bench dedicated in her honor at the SVSU Tennis Complex.

Nedeva, who died unexpectedly in September of 2016, was an avid tennis player and fan of SVSU’s women’s tennis team. The ceremony was attended by numerous university faculty, friends and neighbors of Nedeva.

Speakers at the ceremony included SVSU women’s tennis coach Jennifer Boehm, Department of Mathematical Sciences Chair Tony Crachiola, Physics Professor and tennis partner Marian Shih and Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Deb Huntley.

“Dora was a rare individual who was very caring,” Huntley said. “She was really involved with the University, attending plays and events.”

Huntley added that some of the best things about Nedeva were her humility and willingness to help others.

“She carried herself with humility,” Huntley said. “[Always] doing what she could to make lives better. If a junior faculty member or student needed mentoring, she was always there.”

Boehm made the arrangements for the engraved bench, along with donors, and coordinated the ceremony. She said all it took was one email, and the university was behind her every step of the way.

“I appreciate the support that we have gotten from the university,” Boehm said. “It took one email to Deb Huntley, and she said she’ll be there. (Huntley) offered to speak because she knew her. It’s been great to see.”

Boehm and Nedeva formed a close friendship when they met at the Greater Midland Tennis Center. Nedeva was a student at many of the classes that Boehm instructed.

“She was a religious follower,” Boehm said. “She was always there. We developed a connection. Sometimes she would be the only one to show up. She was the die-hard who was always going to be there.”

With the backing of donors and administrative support, Boehm decided that a bench would be the most fitting way to remember Nedeva.

“We wanted to do something to honor her,” Boehm said. “Once it was brought up, we liked the idea. She was always playing. She used to say that one of her friends would say they spent 80 percent of their time sitting and talking and 20 percent of the time playing.”

Nedeva was a follower of Boehm’s team, and it felt right to have her honored on the tennis court.

“She was a fan of the team,” Boehm said. “She had one of my former players in class and was always asking about the team. It just seemed appropriate to have something out there that’s functional but also draws attention to recognizing her.”

A native of Bulgaria, Nedeva attended the University of Kentucky to pursue her doctorate degree. Having been away from home for many years, Boehm said that she played a helping hand with the team, which has rostered a handful of international students.

“(Former player Izabella Ismailova) had her as a professor, and she was an international student,” Boehm said. “(Nedeva) had that connection of making her feel welcomed. It’s hard being away from your family.”

Nedeva was hired in 2005 as a part of the mathematics department. Throughout her tenure, she taught finite math and calculus courses.

Crachiola was hired into the department the same year as Nedeva.

“Dora had a big impact on many SVSU students both inside and outside the classroom,” Crachiola said. “She brightened the lives of many others at SVSU, including the friends she made through her love of tennis. The tennis courts are a fitting place to remember her vibrant personality and love of life.”