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Inside Education and Health Sciences

In memoriam: Anne Crecelius, professor of health and sport science

Anne Crecelius, professor in UD's Department of Health and Sport Science in the School of Education and Health Sciences, died Feb. 26, after a long and courageous journey with breast cancer. She was 37.

The UD community is invited to a Celebration of Life for Anne at 4 p.m. Friday, March 10, in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception. A reception will follow in Kennedy Union ballroom. The Celebration of Life will also be available via livestream here. Anne's family also asks friends, family, coworkers, students, neighbors and others to help create a poem to share at her celebration. Click here to contribute through Thursday, March 9.

Anne was a beloved mentor to many students and an active participant in numerous University initiatives and committees, including the Academic Senate. Her influence was not limited to UD, as she was also active in nationwide efforts towards advancing physiology education.

She was an exemplary educator, as evidenced by the honors she received on the University, regional and national levels for excellence in classroom instruction. Anne won UD's Alumni Award for Faculty Teaching in 2018 and the Research Recognition Award from the American Physiological Society in 2020. The Colorado State University College of Health and Human Sciences also recognized her in 2022 as its Emerging Leader Alumna.

"Anne Crecelius was a nationally acclaimed researcher in the field of physiology, a recipient of the University's top teaching award, and a major contributor to the governance of her department, the School of Education and Health Sciences, and the University," said Paul Benson, provost and executive vice president of academic affairs. "Above all, she cared about the wellbeing and holistic development of her students and the thriving of her colleagues. Anne exemplified for me UD's distinctive educational mission and the power of a life devoted to learning, discovery, and authentic human presence to others."

In Anne's honor, the University has established The Professor Anne R. Crecelius Fund for Innovation in Learning and Teaching at the University of Dayton, a fund that will provide annual awards to teams of two or more faculty or staff from different programs, departments or University divisions for projects that advance excellence in learning, teaching and mentoring in innovative ways.

Anne earned a bachelor's degree in exercise science from UD in 2007 and returned as an assistant professor in 2013 after earning her master's and doctoral degrees in cardiovascular physiology from Colorado State University. She received tenure and promotion to the rank of associate professor in 2019, and was promoted to the rank of professor in spring 2023. In addition to teaching health and sport science courses, Anne served as interim department chair in 2019-20.

Her brilliance as a teacher came as no surprise to those who knew Anne as a student. Hailing from Chanhassen, Minnesota, Anne quickly found her home at UD, distinguishing herself as an outstanding student-athlete, campus leader and scholar. As a student worker in the Fitz Center, she and other students helped imagine the concept for the Rivermobile, a mobile classroom that travels to schools throughout the Great Miami River watershed. She also played catcher for two seasons (2004-05) on the varsity softball team.

Her academic talents led her to become one of the first recipients of the Berry Scholarship for honors students, helping pay for her education at UD. For her honors thesis, she wrote a peer-reviewed study, with faculty members Paul Vanderburgh and the late Lloyd Laubach, on age and body weight handicap in 5K runs.

"Anne was the heart and soul of our department," said Corinne Daprano, associate dean in the School of Education and Health Sciences. "Several of us were members of the department when she was an undergraduate and were thrilled when she decided to rejoin us as a faculty colleague. Her energy, enthusiasm and passion for students and for UD inspired all of us. We are heartbroken by the loss of this courageous and amazing colleague, mentor and friend."

Anne consistently gave back to the efforts that helped her succeed at UD, such as working with Berry Summer Thesis Institute students on their research studies. One of those Berry Summer Thesis Institute participants, Paige Kompa, completed research in Anne's Integrative Human Physiology Laboratory and was one of two UD students under Anne's guidance to win an outstanding undergraduate abstract award in 2022 from the American Physiological Society. They presented their research at the annual international Experimental Biology Conference. Paige said she was honored to have Anne as a teacher and mentor, and even more appreciative that they became close friends, especially as Anne neared the end of her life.

"Dr. Crecelius had an unwavering passion for research, teaching and life," said Paige, a senior pre-medicine major. "She was the most selfless person I knew. Even years into her illness, she never thought twice about sacrificing precious hours of her time for the lab or her students. Through the gift of knowing Dr. C, I witnessed what true bravery looks like. Her research and science come second to her life lessons. From Dr. C, I learned about wisdom, hope, compassion and an unrelenting fire to make the most of today."

Other notable moments as a faculty member included delivering the keynote address to students at the 2017 convocation, and being named a "Woman of UD" in 2021 by the Women's Center.

Anne's journey with breast cancer also shaped much of her time at UD. In 2014, Anne was diagnosed with breast cancer a month before her 29th birthday. She remained in remission for five years before her cancer returned in March 2020, this time as Stage IV metastatic breast cancer.

Even as she completed cancer treatment, Anne remained committed to her students and to UD, continuing to teach, publish and participate in University activities and initiatives. She also incorporated her cancer journey ​​in her teachings, publishing articles in the Physiological Society Blog and Science about how she included her personal experiences with cancer treatment into instruction about human physiology.

One of her last works, an article for The Conversation about heart rate variability as measured by wearable devices, was published Dec. 26.

Anne stepped down from classroom instruction at the start of the spring semester as her health worsened, but remained engaged with the University as much as she could. She entered home hospice care in early February, and knowing death was near, wrote much of her own obituary which her family published on her blog and is excerpted below. A full obituary can also be seen here.

Anne wrote: "Particularly after her initial diagnosis in 2014, but even before, Anne took a ‘say yes' mentality toward life. She loved to travel, enjoy the outdoors, try new things, push herself physically and mentally, and was a tremendous friend. In her last years, she continued to explore and spend time with those important to her, all while maintaining a productive work life and receiving treatments."

She also called the UD community her local family and spoke of the strong connections she made with her students.

"While she did not have children of her own, her students became like her kids and are a part of her living legacy. She mentored students in her research lab, taught with energy and passion in her classes, and connected with students through advising. Colleagues across the institution became friends, and Anne's influence was far ranging through countless committees and service obligations."

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