This story was updated Nov. 28 at 10:05 p.m.
The Nugget Grill and Pub closed early Tuesday after mathematics professor Kent Merryfield lost consciousness and died of cardiac arrest around 2:30 p.m. He was 65.
“From the start, I could tell he was a good-hearted man,” said third year Lynn Le, an applied math major. “He was always knowledgeable about the material as well as other topics, so he would usually go on a tangent a bit, excitingly discussing something math related.”
Le took Merryfield’s Calculus III course when she was a freshman and said that he was quiet natured, but friendly.
“[Merryfield] had very kind eyes and wanted his students to succeed,” Le said.
The late professor was called a renaissance man. He was known for his contributions to the campus, his distinctive laugh and his sunny disposition. He is survived by his wife Margaret Merryfield and their two children.
Students mourned his death Wednesday, leaving bouquets of flowers at his door and sharing their memories and condolences on Twitter and RateMyProfessor.com.
“He was one of those teachers that people could tell he loved teaching his subject,” one student who took his Calculus III course wrote on Rate My Professor Wednesday. “I wasn’t a good student but he was a great teacher. It’s a shame that nobody will be reading his RateMyProfessor page anymore. We really lost a great teacher. May he rest in peace.”
Members of the department shared their thoughts on Merryfield’s impact at the university in a Wednesday morning statement.
“Kent Merryfield was beloved by our students, staff and faculty, and he was a leader in the department,” said Tangan Gao, chair for the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. “This is a tremendous loss to the department and this loss will be felt at every corner of the campus.”
Merryfield has been an active member of the campus since 1985, lending his time when he wasn’t teaching to coach Long Beach State’s team in the William Lowell Putnam Mathematics Competition. For the last 13 years, he devoted time as undergraduate associate chair for the department, creating the Honors Seminar in Problem Solving, a program to aid students in competition-level mathematical problem solving.
“We will miss Kent for his chuckle, his care and thoughtfulness, and for all of the wonderful things he has done, both for our campus and for our community,” said Curt Bennett, dean of the College of Science and Mathematics.
According to a statement released by the campus, many students that he coached at the high school level went on to some of the top colleges in the state.
Merryfield was recognized in 2006 and 2007 as “Most Valuable Professor” and won the Samuel L. Greitzer Distinguished Faculty Advising Award in 2010.
Reporters from the Daily 49er visited the restaurant Tuesday to investigate and saw a body covered with a sheet around 5:30 p.m.
A student who was in the pub during the incident tweeted that the man fell out of his chair while eating.
“He started choking on his food and then his whole body was just convulsing … ” A student eyewitness tweeted. “But it literally all happened in like 30 seconds it was so scary. They’re trying to revive him but it’s not working.”
After 2:30 p.m. paramedics responded to a “man-down” call.
Jeff Bliss executive director of media and digital news for Long Beach State said that Counseling and Psychological Services would be available to students who were in the restaurant at the time of the incident.