Julia Ann Hassett was a professor and department chair in the mathematics and computer science department at Oakton Community College in Des Plaines for 15 years.
"She was really intellectually brilliant and yet in a personal way very deep and soulful," said Kathleen Carot, a humanities professor at Oakton. "She had a really generous spirit, and she was a really sweet person who loved to help people while still having a real pragmatic quality about her."
Mrs. Hassett, 55, died Monday, July 21, at Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield after suffering a heart attack in her Winfield home, said her husband of 24 years, William Bon Durant. She was taken to the hospital but never regained consciousness, he said.
Born in Pittsfield, Mass., Mrs. Hassett grew up in Greenfield, Mass., and graduated from Greenfield High School. After earning bachelor's and master's degrees in mathematics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Mrs. Hassett began a doctoral program at the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1984, specializing in an area of mathematics called applied differential geometry, her husband said. Her work included using that area of math to analyze patterns of the North American cod population.
While studying for her doctorate, Mrs. Hassett met her future husband, a fellow graduate student. Both had family in San Diego, so they began carpooling from Santa Barbara to San Diego. They married in 1990.
Mrs. Hassett studied ballet as a hobby while in Santa Barbara.
Around 1986, Mrs. Hassett left the doctoral program and began working as an actuary at a Santa Barbara insurance company, her husband said. After he got a job at the University of Notre Dame, the couple moved in 1989 to the Chicago area, where she took an actuarial job at an insurance firm in Glenview.
In the early 1990s, Mrs. Hassett decided she wanted to work in education and took a job teaching math at DeVry University's Addison campus.
"She was a strong advocate of the early adoption of technology in education and promoting the use of calculators and Smart Boards in education," her husband said. "And when she moved from her actuarial job to her first full-time salaried teaching job, she was suddenly much happier."
In 1998, she was offered a job teaching at Oakton, which "turned out to be a wonderful spot for her," her husband said. "They liked what she was doing with technology and the classroom, and she made a lot of friends there."
Bob Sompolski, Oakton's dean of mathematics and technologies, hired Mrs. Hassett and remembered her as "one of the most aggressive faculty members in terms of trying to utilize technology in the math classes."
"Julia was refreshing for me, because she leaned toward more technology rather than less," he said.
Sompolski said Mrs. Hassett was always willing to put in extra time to advance Oakton's use of technology in the classroom. Among the projects she was involved in were a National Science Foundation-funded program to construct a math class to satisfy universities' general education requirements but which also used computers and calculators.
With Sompolski, Mrs. Hassett oversaw workshops to train local high school and community college faculty. She also designed developmental classes using the National Center for Academic Transformation's "emporium model," which allows students to work at different levels.
"She shared her gifts at every level with everybody," Sompolski said.
He also noted Mrs. Hassett's involvement in leading Oakton's Council of Chairs and Coordinators, a faculty committee.
"She was a terrific college citizen," Sompolski said. "She never in my mind got a lot of recognition for it, but she had, I think, all the right motivations for the things she was doing."
She also is survived by two sons, Matthew and Daniel Bon Durant; her father, John Hassett; and her brother, Kevin Hassett.
Services were held.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun