Memories of Eric Sullivan, Ph.D.

Dr. Eric Sullivan Photo

Donate to the Dr. Eric Sullivan Data Science Fund Our dear friend and colleague Dr. Eric Sullivan passed away on Friday, Jan. 13, 2023 after a courageous battle with glioblastoma. Eric started teaching at Carroll in the Department of Mathematics, Engineering, Computer Science, and Physics in 2013. He was a treasured teacher, scholar, and colleague. Eric accomplished much in his time at Carroll. He was instrumental in the development of the Data Science program, he wrote and published a mathematics textbook, he championed the Student Undergraduate Research Festival (SURF), and he received the Carroll College Outstanding Teaching Award in May of 2022. He also provided public education opportunities through popular lectures and debates. A beautiful tribute to Eric was posted on the family's page and his obituary can be found here.

Memorial Ceremony - Sunday, January 22

A memorial ceremony for Eric was held January 22 at Carroll College to celebrate a life well lived. A recording of the event can be viewed here.

The memorial ceremony will be about 30 minutes long followed by ample time for family and friends to socialize and share memories of Eric with one another. There will be several types of beverages (including some of Eric's favorites) and light hors d'oeuvres.

All are welcome. The celebration will be live-streamed and recorded, and links will be shared as we get closer to Sunday's celebration. Instead of flowers, please consider a donation to the Dr. Eric Sullivan Data Science Fund that will honor Eric’s legacy.


Memories of Eric


I just wanted to contribute to all of the wonderful reflections on what a truly amazing person Dr. Sullivan was. I only ever took one class with him, Introduction to Statistics the first semester of my freshman year in 2019. I am primarily an Arts and Humanities student, so I only needed one math class to fulfill my core requirement, but what Dr. Sullivan taught me in that one class has helped guide me through all of my courses since, and I can say with full assurance that he did change my life. He was always so approachable and ready to answer any question -- he made math FUN and his passion for the subject was contagious. He challenged us to jump in with both feet and always encouraged his students to be bold and creative problem solvers, and his unique influence greatly helped a very uncertain college freshman find her voice and feel she had a place here. I wouldn't be where I am today without Dr. Sullivan, and the memories of his class will always hold a particular place in my heart. I miss him a lot, and I'll think of him whenever I encounter a probability question in my life from here on out. 

Lily Hoelscher
Carroll student, Class of 2023

Eric always had an amazing, gleeful, passionate, infectious enthusiasm for mathematics.  He was the guy who would pop his head into my office in the morning and say:  "Guess what?  We get to do math today!  All day!"

Kelly Cline, Ph.D.
Professor of Mathematics, Physics, and Astronomy

Eric and I would walk on Mount Helena talking about how math is God’s love language, then he and I received our cancer diagnosis at about the same time. Our conversations shifted to doctors, radiation, surgery and insurance companies. We both used to say that the worst thing about cancer is NOT that it can kill you but that it can steal your ability to live a beautiful life on a daily basis. He insisted on tapping into joy and devouring as much of it as he could every day no matter what cancer had planned for the day. What a good example for us all.

Kelly Parsley
Associate Professor of Health Sciences

I loved watching Eric teach. As a fellow professor, we don’t always have time to visit each other’s classrooms, but I was lucky enough to be a part of several of Eric’s data science courses. It was so fun to watch how Eric built connections with his students. He could challenge them with really hard problems and get them to jump in and try new things, all while making jokes and building a sense of community. He liked to shuffle the student groups frequently so that everyone got to know everyone and the whole class could become one cohesive group. When you went to an Eric class, you knew you weren’t going to just sit back and listen, you were going to actively DO the math and get a real mental workout. I learned so much from Eric, both about data science and about engaging teaching. My favorite thing about watching him teach was seeing how much he loved being in the classroom with his students. He loved math and data science and his enthusiasm was definitely contagious.  I can't count how many times we heard him joyfully announce "We get to do math today!"

Jodi Fasteen, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Mathematics

Eric was my SURF hero. Eric wrote a computer program to manage submissions, was the driving force behind the virtual SURFs of COVID, and basically kept me from losing my mind when we started each year wondering where on earth we were going to get the money. Eric came to every SURF meeting, even after his diagnosis. There will be a giant Eric empty space as SURF comes around again this year that cannot be filled.

Jeanette Fregulia, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of History

One of Eric's many gifts was his ability to be so engaging.  I would frequently run into him while hiking on Mt. Helena, and he always had an interesting story to share. I will truly miss our cool and interesting conversations.

Nikki Honzel, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience

2022 Outstanding Teaching Award as presented at the May 2022 Commencement Ceremony

Eric Sullivan at Carroll College Commencement 2022The recipient of the Outstanding Teaching Award is selected by the Faculty Development Committee on behalf of faculty, staff and students of Carroll College in recognition of excellence in the classroom, in student advising, and as a role model and inspiration for Carroll students.

Out of a field of 18 nominees, Dr. Eric Sullivan, associate professor of mathematics, was the recipient of the 2022 award.

A number of Dr. Sullivan’s nominators described both his exceptional accessibility and support of students as well as his emphasis on teaching his students independence and reliance on one another. One of his students shared, “He taught us to rely on and support each other, and to come to him after we'd done what we could on our own, instilling independence, resilience, and humility in his students, while staying accessible and incredibly supportive. For me, his office hours became more than homework help, but a place of friendship, help, encouragement, and respite.”

He trusts his students and is a strong believer in active learning. As another of his students explained, “If we can’t figure something out initially, he says, ‘Turn to your neighbor and explain’ or ‘Problem-solve with those around you.’ He consistently gets us to communicate complex mathematical concepts with those around us.”

He is also a collegial and collaborative colleague. Shared another nominator, “The math hallway became a refuge from stress because of the continual nerdy jokes, lighthearted banter, and playful teasing. Through group conversations in the math hallway with professors and students, Dr. Sullivan continually inspired collaboration and support among students and faculty.”

He has done all of this and more as he has courageously and tenaciously battled brain cancer over the past year while never wavering in his commitment to his students and inspiring in them his deep love of mathematics.