Public memorial service set for SIUC Interim Chancellor who died - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Public memorial service set for SIUC Interim Chancellor who died 'unexpectedly'

CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) - Southern Illinois University Carbondale Interim Chancellor Paul Sarvela died Sunday, Nov. 9, according to an email from university President Randy Dunn, and a public memorial service has been set. 

Sarvela had announced in October he was diagnosed with a rare, but reportedly very treatable, form of carcinoma.

Dunn released the following statement regarding public services for Sarvela:

I write to share additional information about honoring Interim Chancellor Paul D. Sarvela for his friendship and his service to the university.

A public visitation and celebration of life will take place from 4 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 13, in the Student Center Ballrooms. Father Joseph Brown will offer reflections at 7:30 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, Dr. Sarvela's family suggests that memorial contributions may be made to the Paul D. Sarvela Scholarship Fund at the SIU Foundation, Lutheran Social Services of Illinois or Epiphany Lutheran Church in Carbondale.

One additional note: In honor of Paul's service to the state and university, the governor's office has authorized the university to fly the flags on campus at half-staff until sunrise on Saturday, Nov. 15.

Clearly, Paul's impact on SIU will be powerful and long-lasting. I invite the university community to join me and the Board of Trustees in honoring his significant service.

Faculty and friends at SIU say the loss of Doctor Paul Sarvela is felt throughout the entire community.

On Monday Nov. 10, those who knew him best remembered his legacy.

Friends say if you knew Sarvela, you knew how much he loved SIU. For 28 years, the campus was his home.

Longtime friend Tim Fink was with Sarvela during his final moments.

“We miss him on a personal level, we can find chancellors, those people, those connections you make, that's the good thing,” Fink said.

Whether it was playing in a polka band at the Carbondale Farmers Market, being involved in church projects or being a family man, friends say Sarvela did it with a passion and commitment rarely seen. And, the news of his passing was a shock.

“He had just a fantastic sense of humor, I was just a little cheered up by thinking of some of the laughs he had,” says another friend, Edward Benyas.

In the short time Sarvela served as Interim Chancellor, Dunn made it clear he made a difference.

“When you can just dive in whole heartedly, kind of no holds bard to change a place,” says Dunn.

Those who knew him best say the imprint he's left on them will never be forgotten.

“His legacy is how to live life. All of the friends he had, it's not about how much money you have. It was all of the friendships and good times he generated,” says Fink.

SIU will host a public visitation Thursday from 4-7:30 in the Student Center.

A private funeral is planned for Friday, Nov. 14.

Doctor Sarvela leaves behind his wife Debbie and their two children.

The original release from Dunn reads as follows:

Dear Faculty, Staff, Students, Alumni and Friends of SIU:

It is with deep sadness that I share with you the news that Interim SIU Carbondale Chancellor Paul Sarvela passed away unexpectedly earlier this evening. Our hearts go out to his wife, Debbie, their son and daughter, and the other members of their family.Over the past 28 years, Dr. Sarvela has served our university with distinction as a faculty member, department chair, center director, dean, associate system vice president, and since July, interim chancellor. As much as we value his many contributions as a mentor and a colleague, it is his friendship and compassion for those around him that we will miss the most.

We will ensure that information about any arrangements will be shared with the campus community when they are available. I would ask that you keep the Sarvela family in your thoughts and prayers.


Randy Dunn President

There is no word right now on a cause of death.

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