Memories that will last a lifetime, circled around a legend who will never be forgotten.
Those were the stories shared Sunday, Jan. 13, in ETSU’s Brooks Gymnasium for the Celebration of Life Service for Dr. Chris Dula.
Chris Dula joined the ETSU Department of Psychology in 2004 where he immediately began to impact faculty members and students with his divergent approach to teaching – high-energy, interesting and always entertaining. He wanted the best for everyone he encountered. Outside of the classroom, you could either catch him jamming out on stage or being supportive and helping the community.
“No matter where you are, no matter your background, whether you have one dollar in your bank or one billion in your bank, he’s going to treat you with love,” said former student Richardd Barran. “He’s going to treat you the same, he’s going to put you in a position where he wants the most out of you to get the world to be a better place.
On Jan. 8, Dula passed away after fighting brain cancer. Despite the problems that came with the battle, Dula kept a smile on his face and continued to spread love as he expressed in the video documentary shown at the service.
The creator of the documentary was Devin Ricker. Ricker was a former student of Dula’s, enjoyed Dula’s music and presented his capstone to the professor. The filming of the documentary started around the time Dula discovered the news about brain cancer, but neither him nor Devin would let it deter them.
“He gave me so much that I was like, ‘I’ve got to give back to this guy,’” Ricker said. “Right after my master’s program, I started filming the documentary in hopes to give back to him.”
Following the video documentary was a performance by Universally Complicated Freestylers, a dance group that the professor helped influence. When the group exited the stage, a line full of family members and friends began to form to take turns expressing their emotions, describing Dula’s character, and telling their favorite memories with the professor.
“I think you see [his legacy] in everybody that showed up here today and even those who couldn’t come,” said Ricker. “His legacy is one of passion, love, joy and of enthusiasm for life. This guy was a guy that lived life to the fullest … I think this is something that’s going to inspire everyone that was here today and everyone that knew him to continue to live life to the fullest just like he did.”
His passion, love, joy and enthusiasm were far from unnoticed at ETSU as he became an award-winning professor. Some of his awards include: The highest honor awarded to an ETSU faculty member, the ETSU Distinguished Faculty Award for Teaching, the School of Graduate Studies Outstanding Mentor Award in 2015 and he was the keynote speaker at Commencement in May 2016.
Starting this year, a “Dr. Chris Dula Day of Service” every April will recognize everything Dula did for the university and motivate the campus to participate in service.
“Today was a wonderful celebration of an individual who defines everything that makes ETSU special,” said ETSU President Brian Noland. “Chris Dula was bigger than a person, he was part of the fabric of this university. Thousands of students over the course of a decade and a half had the chance to learn from him, to learn of him and to learn of his belief in them.”