The UCF College of Medicine will hold a celebration of life ceremony Sunday and is establishing an endowed undergraduate scholarship in honor of assistant professor William Safranek, Ph.D., who died this week in a car accident.
Dr. Safranek taught microbiology at the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences.
“He touched the lives of hundreds of students, many of whom have left cards, notes and gifts at a growing memorial in front of his office,” said Dr. Deborah German, vice president for medical affairs and dean of the College of Medicine. “They have talked about a passionate teacher who also served as a mentor. In a variety of words we have heard this heartfelt sentiment: ‘Thank you, Dr. Safranek. You changed my life.’”
Sunday’s ceremony begins at 3 p.m. at the Fairwinds Alumni Center on the UCF main campus. All are invited to attend. In addition, in accordance with the wishes of his family, the college is establishing an endowed scholarship for undergraduate students in his name.
Notes left by students show what kind of lasting impression he has made on so many.
“Your stories and your kind words, your patience and your insight allowed me to explore my own desires and consider the things I most want to be a part of in this life.”
“You always pushed me to do better and never give up.”
In microbiology I still hear Dr. Safranek’s questions when I am stuck. He will live on every day in the patients we help save, in the people we help treat, and the people we will teach one day.”
Considered an educational “workhorse” for his teaching load, Dr. Safranek was the winner of multiple teaching awards. In 2013, Dr. Safranek was the College of Medicine’s Founders’ Day honoree for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. In recognizing him, UCF noted that he had the highest teaching load in the Burnett school’s history, including additional courses such as Immunodiagnostics and Environmental Microbiology, multiple labs and the laboratory component of Clinical Pathogenic Microbiology.
In addition, he provided internship experiences and interview coaching to pre-health professional students through extensive collaboration with the Pre-Health Professions Advising Office. He also mentors high school science students throughout Central Florida. “His enthusiasm for teaching our students is infectious and a model for all to follow,” read his award nomination from Dr. Roseann White, associate director of the Burnett school.
In 2010, Dr. Safranek received the UCF Teaching Incentive Program (TIP) Award, which recognizes teaching effectiveness, innovation and creativity. Safranek said he was “really surprised” by the honor, and credited his colleagues and students with teaching him. “I don’t think a day goes by where I don’t learn something from them,” he said.
He received a B.S. degree in biology from St. Peter’s College in Jersey City, N.J. and his master’s degree in microbiology from the University of Rhode Island. He earned his Ph.D. in microbiology from Temple University Medical School.
Dr. Safranek began teaching at UCF as an adjunct professor in 1995 before being named as a fulltime instructor in 2005. He was promoted to assistant professor in 2007. His latest teaching load had included general microbiology, microbiology for health, immunodiagnostics, pathogenic microbiology and clinical pathogenic microbiology. He had worked as a clinical microbiologist at Wuesthoff Health System in Rockledge and as a microbiologist in the U.S. Army.
“Bill was an extraordinary teacher, friend and colleague who instilled in his students a love and passion for science and discovery,” Dr. German said. “We are all the better for having known him.”