Friends, colleagues and students gathered for a memorial in Peterson Hall Thursday evening to honor Geography Professor Tom Frazier who died earlier this month at the age of 51 after 16 years of teaching at Cal State Long Beach.
A crowd of 45 to 60 congregated around photographs and a splay of german food to remember the professor for his love of geography, German culture and his ability to connect with students.
The room was decorated with photographs of the professor and German flags. A buffet of traditional German food was offered to attendees to celebrate Frazier’s well-known love of the country, where he lived for a year after graduating from the university.
Geography Department Chair, Paul Laris, spoke to the crowd and read letters from colleagues who couldn’t attend the memorial. He spoke of Frazier’s teaching style and his time studying in Germany.
Laris started teaching in the Geography department at Cal State Long Beach in 2002, the same year as Frazier. He described the late professor as someone who could captivate students.
“I always gave him the most difficult class to fill and he filled it up,” Laris said, “Even when the college wanted to experiment with…Monday [and] Friday morning classes it was like ‘who’s going to teach that?’ and I went ‘Ok, I’ll put Tom in there.’ Because he was that popular.”
Laris said that it was common for Frazier to come back after class and announce that he managed to persuade a couple students to change their majors or minors to geography.
Along with anecdotes shared during the memorial, attendees were encouraged to leave cards and notes for his family.
One of the notes was filled out by a former student Jacob Veater, a mechanical engineering student. Veater had taken Frazier’s class two years ago to fill a general elective and was surprised by how much he liked it and the impression the professor made on him.
“He was always so passionate about what he did,” Veater said, “When he showed up to class he would always be in a good mood. He be ready to have fun [and] make it entertaining. It wasn’t just another [general education class] to sit through.”
Frazier’s Instructional Student Assistant, Shane Eaves, said that it was Frazier’s excitement that inspired and motivated students.. Eaves, a graduate student majoring in geography, began working with Frazier three months ago when he applied to be a student assistant.
Despite his nervousness about starting a new job, Eaves found the professor to be patient and engaging. In Frazier’s classes Eaves said that even he found himself interested in the subject, even though he was interested in a different area of geography.
“[He was] open, kind, caring and enthusiastic about the subject, which makes you care about the subject. It brings that passion to that classroom,” Eaves said.
Along with his love for teaching many spoke of his passion for Germany, which Frazier visited for the first time after attending Cal State Long Beach as a student. Much of his research had to do with the Berlin Wall, which was a major interest since he was in the country when the wall fell.
Laylita Day, a geography major, had taken one of Frazier’s classes for a general elective and said that his love for Germany was a constant conversation for him.
“He would always give us little stories about his time living in Germany and the Berlin Wall. He would [speak] German sometimes for fun,” Day said.
Like many of his students Day became a geography major after taking Frazier’s class and credited his devotion to the subject.
“He was passionate and enthusiastic…about geography, he loved it and he wanted everyone else to love it as well,” Day said.