Paul Sestak

In memoriam

Memorial services set July 20-21 for Paul Sestak, HRIM faculty member


4:14 p.m., July 17, 2015--Memorial services will be held Monday, July 20, and Tuesday, July 21, for Paul Sestak, associate professor of hotel, restaurant and institutional management (HRIM) at the University of Delaware. Prof. Sestak passed away on Wednesday, July 15, at the age of 65, surrounded by his family and friends.

Visitation will be held on Monday from 4-7 p.m. and Tuesday from 8:15-9:15 a.m. at Doherty Funeral Home at 3200 Limestone Rd. in Wilmington. Following visitation on Tuesday, a Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. at Holy Angels Church at 82 Possum Park Rd. in Newark.

“On behalf of the HRIM family we send our condolences to the Sestak family,” said HRIM chairperson Sheryl Kline. “I know that you will join me in missing our dear friend, teacher and mentor.”

Prof. Sestak was a member of the HRIM department and a UD faculty member for over 30 years. He joined UD faculty in 1984 as a professor in the Department of Textiles, Design and Consumer Economics before joining the HRIM department in 1997.

In 1990, Prof. Sestak was awarded the University's Excellence in Undergraduate Advisement Award, and the following year, he received UD's Excellence in Teaching Award. 

Prof. Sestak’s training as an architect helped him to turn HRIM’s facilities management course into what Kline called “a fun and interesting course that included punny jokes, crazy ties, doughnuts on Thursdays and an engaging style of teaching that made his students love his class and him.”

A dedicated and active member of the HRIM faculty, Prof. Sestak enjoyed going above and beyond his classroom by working with students in Hospitality Club and Vita Nova. 

“Although he was not one of the food and beverage faculty, Paul was a fixture in Vita Nova,” Kline said. “He loved cooking and being with the students. Every week after class, he would put on his chef whites and join the Vita Nova team, working with the students in the dinner class.”

Prof. Sestak also taught a popular presentation management course and a course that grew out of his research interest in historical roadside architecture. But he is perhaps best known for his work as a devoted mentor for HRIM students.

“Paul advised HRIM juniors and seniors and took an interest in his students’ careers and lives,” Kline said. “He can rest assured that he will live on in the lives of the students for many years to come.”

Students share inspiring memories

Prof. Sestak’s significant contributions to the University can perhaps best be understood through the words of his students, who have responded to news of his passing with an outpouring of comments about his impactful work.

Former students described Prof. Sestak as caring, engaging, kind, hilarious, a leader by example and a champion of living life to its fullest.

“My life, my career, my future would never have been the same if it hadn't been for Paul Sestak,” wrote one former student. “Thank you Paul for molding me into the person I am today, thank you for the memories we shared and the bonds you helped me make.”

“There are few people in this world that can impact our lives the way Paul did,” wrote another. “For one man to help so many students grow from children to adults and find their voices and encourage them to reach their goals, no matter how lofty, is truly amazing.”

Another alum commented: “He taught us not to give in to popular opinion, not to follow the crowd, to stand up for yourself and what you believe in, to face every day with a positive and realistic attitude and to always, always add a touch of humor to everything you do.

“Since I graduated in 2006, he texted me for every birthday and holiday, sent Christmas cards every year and always cared to ask how my family and husband were doing. Paul had special, meaningful relationships with each one of us. We have all been so lucky just to know him. I will hold a special place in my heart for him, always.”

Other former students thanked Prof. Sestak for his kindness and contributions to their lives.

 “You have never left my list of top 10 all time favorite people I have met during my lifetime,” wrote one alumnus. “I went through some tough times in my life while at UD and you supported me and were there for me as an adviser and more importantly a friend the whole way!”

Commented another: “Paul Sestak's free spirit, contagious laugh, and kind heart made him a truly unbelievable man. He would go out of his way to ensure that everyone (and I mean everyone) had a smile on their face, not leaving their side until he saw that smile.

“Guess what, Paul? I'm smiling right now because of everything you did for me. You impacted my life as a student, gentleman, and hospitality professional. Thank you for all your guidance, leadership and jokes that I will never forget. I know you're smiling back.”

On-campus memorial 

An on-campus memorial service will be held for Prof. Sestak near the start of fall semester, and any cards and wishes sent to Raub Hall will be forwarded to the Sestak family. 

Born in Wilkes Barre, Pa., he graduated from Dickinson High School in Delaware and received a degree in architecture from Drexel University. 

Prof. Sestak is survived by his wife of 41 years, Peggy (McGowan) Sestak; his children, P.J. Sestak (Molly), Jonathan Sestak and Kim Sestak (Chris Rau); his granddaughters, Lily and Claire; his brothers, George Sestak (Maryann) and Joe Sestak (Karen); his sister-in-law, Linda Sestak; and many nieces, nephews and cousins.

In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of Prof. Sestak may be made to the American Diabetes Association, 100 W. 10th St., No. 1002, in Wilmington or to the Little Sisters of the Poor, 185 Salem Church Road, Newark.

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