Robertson School instructor Bryan DeVasher died Oct. 30 at the age of 54. The thoughts and prayers of the CT Staff, many of whom are his former students, are with his wife, daughter and son. DeVasher left a heartfelt imprint on his students, never failing to bring a jovial, sincere love for his pupils and subject to the classroom.
Robertson School professor Jeff South is raising money on GoFundMe for a scholarship to memorialize DeVasher.
“An endowment of $20,000 would allow the Robertson School to award an annual scholarship of at least $1,000 to a student who embodies the traits Bryan lived: a commitment to fair, accurate and compelling journalism,” South wrote on the GoFundMe page.
Here are some of our cherished memories of Bryan DeVasher.
When I took DeVasher’s class, it was held late on Thursday nights — not necessarily the best time to discuss the passive voice. But his jokes and realistic insight on the past, present and future of print media animated the class into lively discussions. He was always kind, personable and accommodating of his students, especially when they had to dip out of the room to make a phone call or attend an event for a story. I remember how he talked about his family, and that caring nature reflected onto his relationships with students. One night, a classmate brought in pizza to share — given the course’s overlap with dinnertime — and for a few moments, it felt like a group of close friends and family, facilitated by the professor’s ability to create community.
I took DeVasher’s class this time last year and it’s hard to believe it’s been that long. His lessons in copy editing and his genuinely kind and caring attitude toward his students have stuck with me. I remember calling him “professor DeVasher” on several occasions and each time he would tell me to please, just call him Bryan. He respected and valued each of his students, which made for the most productive and beneficial classroom environment. He provided us great advice, telling stories from his first hand experience in the field. He shared stories about his family, too, which gave us more insight into his gracious and compassionate personality. He was the type of professor you hope to have in college — fair, interesting and enjoyable to be around — and I’m grateful to have been taught by him.
DeVasher’s class traditionally began with 15-20 minutes of discussion. But we didn’t talk about the difference between “lay” and “lie” or whether there’s an “s” at the end of “toward.” Bryan taught us about much more than copy editing, he painted a picture of his life as a journalist and illustrated what we could expect in the field. Many college classes and curriculums have a strictly academic agenda, but not Bryan’s. He did so much more than feed us information in a class that caters to that approach. He taught us how to be professionals, because he cared for us not just as his students, but as human beings whose futures were in his hands. Bryan asked about our lives outside the classroom, professional and personal pursuits alike. He was one of those professors who sticks with you. He will always stick with me. He loved his students, and we heard very much about how dearly he loved his family. The VCU and Virginia journalism communities lost a great one.
I remember signing up for copy editing with Bryan DeVasher and thinking to myself “this class is going to be so boring,” and then I met him. His class was the best way to end my day every Tuesday and Thursday last fall semester. Beyond the subject of copy editing, Bryan was eager to share with us his experiences in journalism and gave us the opportunity to learn from his stories. He shared memories of his family and gave his class a personal tone that made students want to show up. I was always touched by how kind and understanding he was. One day in class, every student seemed exhausted and burnt out. He saw that and let us out of class early so we could go home and get some sleep. Even though his class was not one that involved a lot of student-professor interaction, he cared about all of us and we could tell when we interacted with him. While I was in his class, I went to California with the Society of Professional Journalists and had to miss a session. When I got back, he made a point to ask me about my trip, the journalists I met and how much fun I had roaming around Los Angeles. His thoughtfulness and unwavering devotion to his students was what made him an incredible professor and exceptional man. He will be missed dearly.
When I think about where I was a year ago, I can still hear Bryan DeVasher opening up his class with a discussion about his day while popping a new bottle of diet soda he got from the vending machine down the hall. Bryan was well aware that teaching a copy editing class would not be entertaining, but he always made the best of it. He was a caring person who always put someone’s well-being before attending a class, and he provided me assurance that I would be okay after missing a week’s worth of notes due to health issues. He put his students first. I owe part of the journalist I am today to Bryan. It is because of him I always scream internally when I think of the difference between “lay” and “lie” or writing an address in AP style. A year ago today, I would not have imagined writing this in his memory, but his warm smile and the knowledge he left behind is unforgettable.