Sheila Pressley, dean of the College of Health Sciences, passed away on Jan. 24 at Hospice Compassionate Care Center in Richmond at the age of 52. She was known and loved by many across campus and the greater Richmond community.
Joel Cormier, Eastern Kentucky University’s hockey coach and associate professor of sports management, spoke about her brightness and her desire to help people. Cormier went on to say that he felt he had known her forever.
“She has been our dean for the last three years but it seems like we have known her forever,” Cormier said. “She was a genuine caring person that always had a smile on her face.”
Cormier said Pressley had a love for hearing what others had to say, “She was one of those people that no matter who she met, she wanted to hear your story. She would always offer you advice but it wasn’t advice as a superiority. She just had a gentle way that she went about her life.”
Cormier said that she was always doing something big while never making it known and that her diversity was something we needed on EKU’s campus.
Cormier also spoke about Pressley’s position as dean.
“There’s not many minorities in administrative positions. She went about her business representing something greater than herself but yet never really pointed it out,” said Cormier.
David McFaddin, interim university president, wrote in an email that Pressley’s, “positive attitude, joyful personality and desire to be of service to others touched our entire campus and community.”
Wardell Johnshon, a professor in exercise and sports science said that she had been an absolute joy in his life. His friendship started with her after he helped to pick up her son from school.
“Her husband was one of my former graduate students. One day he got in a jam and couldn't pick up his son and she [Pressley] was busy. Her husband called me and asked if I could pick him up from school, so I picked him up and took him to football practice, and that’s how our friendship grew.” Johnson said that she always wanted what was best for the students.
“She’s very bright. If you didn’t know her one thing you would find out is that she was very concerned about the students.”
Pressley was a part of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority on campus and according to Johnson she supported the younger sisters that joined the chapter.
“The young ladies that she was mentoring loved her. She was so supportive and so instrumental and wanted them to think bigger than just finishing the first year or second year verses the third,” Johnson said.
The members of Delta Sigma Theta are not the only ones that were impacted by Pressley, Hugh Romine, 22, a graduate with a sports marketing degree, from Simpsonville, Ky said that he worked in the athletic department for three years and would see her during that time.
“She was just a lady that everytime you passed her in the hallway she had a smile on her face and would always ask you how you were doing. She was never unsocial with anybody.
Romine said that although he did not have a close relationship with her he felt that he could always go to her if he had a problem and he always felt welcomed by her.
“I never knew her on a personal level but she always would go out of her way to ask how I was doing when she saw me so that really stood out to me.” Romine then said that the athletic department would not be the same without her and that he will always remember how kind she was.
“She was a very nice person and always welcomed anyone that she came into contact with, she had a big impact on the athletic department as a whole.”
Other graduate students were able to have a closer relationship with Pressley, such as Marcella Rocha, 26, from Recife, Brazil, she graduated with a sports marketing degree and went back to get a masters degree in physical education. Rocha said Pressley was there for her when she did not know what her next step was.
“When I graduated with my undergrad I was in a situation where I didn’t know what to do and she sat down with me and told me not to worry. She was always there for me when I felt lost.” Pressley had encouraged Rocha to submit her speech to speak at the commencement during the graduation of her masters. Rocha said that she was nervous about her accent but listened to Pressley.
“They were looking for a commencement speaker for my graduation and Dr. Pressley told me that I should do it. I am very self conscious about my accent but I ended up submitting my speech and I ended up doing it.” Pressley was always concerned about her students and never stayed out of touch. Rocha said Pressley always reached out to her to make sure everything was going well.
“After I graduated she didn’t need to help me do anything but she made sure that I could make connections. She just kept in touch with me and made sure that I was okay.”
Pressley will be remembered by many with her kind heart and bright spirit.
Michael Benson, EKU’s former president, spoke highly about Pressley and the friendship they shared.
“She served as our faculty athletics representative. That’s a faculty member appointed by the university to be the point of contact for our student athletes and the institution. She would represent EKU at conference meetings and attended NCAA meetings.”
Benson said that the impression Pressley gave him was bright and always happy to see everyone.
“I found her to be tremendously energetic, always positive, always had a smile, and she had this infectious laugh too.” Benson then went on to speak about how their friendship started and grew. He said that they would meet on a regular basis to discuss issues.
“It really started when she was chair of the faculty senate. We had some difficult issues that we were grappling with, and she and I would meet on a regular basis just like I did with all the chairs of the faculty senate.” Benson said that Pressley was always there for him and they would talk to each other about anything.
“There was nothing that Sheila and I couldn’t talk about. We were very transparent with each other,” said Benson. Despite her health challenges, Pressley never lost her bright side. Benson said that although she had health issues, you wouldn’t notice by her attitude.
“She was compassionate. She was tenacious. She had this work ethic that was second to none, and despite all her health challenges I want people to remember, when she was diagnosed with cancer and she had to start going through treatment she never once complained. It didn’t ever impact her spirit. When she walked into a room you knew she was there because that smile would light up the room.” Benson’s last statement went out to everyone who knew Pressley. He said he hoped everyone could remember her and that he himself would miss her as well.
“I hope we all find comfort in the memories of Sheila. My heart really goes out to Mark and her boys. She’ll never be forgotten. She had a tremendous positive impact on our campus, and she was a role model for so many people. I’m going to miss her.”