University leaders remember iconic Webster professor


Anna Barbara Sakurai, professor emiritus in the Walker School of Business and Technology, passed away Saturday at the age of 80. (Read story here.) Sakurai, a Webster College  graduate, joined the university’s faculty in 1963 and remained to many the heart and soul of the faculty even after her retirement from full-time teaching in 2009.

Below are statements from university leaders in the wake of Sakurai’s death, three days after being injured in a car accident. Former students, colleagues and friends can share memories of Anna Barbara Sakurai by submitting a comment at the end of the story.

President Beth Stroble

June 4, 2011

To the Webster University Community:

It is with great sadness that I must inform you we learned this morning that Professor Emeritus Anna Barbara Sakurai has died as a result of injuries suffered in an automobile accident this week in Portland, Oregon. Her husband, Webster Professor Ed Sakurai, sustained non-life threatening injuries. Ed, along with Anna Barbara’s brother and sister, was with her when she passed away.

Anna Barbara’s association with Webster University and the Loretto community dates back nearly 50 years. Most recently, Anna Barbara served as a professor in the Mathematics and Computer Science Department. She joined Webster in 1963 as a full-time instructor in the Religion Department, where she taught for nine years. She then taught in the College School, which was then a part of the University. Anna Barbara joined the Mathematics and Computer Science Department in 1979, where she served as chair from 1985 to 1999.

Colleagues say Anna Barbara was a one-of-a-kind role model for Webster faculty, staff and students. They say she represented the very best of Webster’s ideals and mission and that caring for others was most important to her, both in and out of the classroom.

Many years ago Anna Barbara and Ed Sakurai initiated the St. Peter and Paul service program, serving dinner to the needy one night a month, a Webster University project that continues today under the leadership of Mary Ann Drake.

In 2001, Anna Barbara received the William T. Kemper Award for Excellence in Teaching. At the time, one of her colleagues explained why she was so deserving of that honor:

“Teaching is not just her vocation; it is her avocation. She is always striving to be better. She often teaches the beginning courses that form the foundation for the computer science major. We can always tell which students were in Anna Barbara’s class because they are so well prepared.”

Information on arrangements and a memorial of Anna Barbara’s life will be provided as it becomes available. Our deepest sympathy goes to Ed, and to Anna Barbara’s family, friends and colleagues. Anna Barbara will be greatly missed by the entire Webster University Community.

Benjamin Ola. Akande, Dean of the Walker School of Business & Technology

June 5, 2011

On behalf of the Walker School of Business & Technology faculty, staff and students, we mourn the passing of our colleague and dear friend Anna Barbara Sakurai.

Anna B, as we all affectionately know her, was a joyful person. Her happiness was infectious. Students knew she loved to help them learn and they responded with affection for their dedicated teacher. We remember Anna B as an outstanding educator who set high goals for her students and then worked by their side to help them achieve every last one. Her colleagues found her a cherished friend who pursued with great enthusiasm and warmth the many causes that engaged her. We remember Anna B as a valued and much loved peer who was always willing to listen and help.

Anna B epitomized the commitment to social justice that characterizes the Loretto community, a community which was central to her life. She loved to help those in need, and her leadership of the St. Peter and Paul dinner program is a tribute to her dedicated care and concern.

But most of all Anna B loved Ed. They were a wonderful, devoted couple who completed each other. Anna B would invite people to dinner and Ed would cook the meal. In this moment of grief we reach out to comfort him. We hope Ed will find some solace in our collective celebration of Anna B’s life.

In the end, we will remember Anna B as one who exemplified all that the Sisters of Loretto and Webster University stand for. We honor her best by following her examples. The faculty, staff and students in the Walker School of Business & Technology will be forever enhanced because we knew her and will never forget the way we have been changed by her presence. We will miss Anna B very much and will never forget all the lives her extraordinary life touched.

Ralph Olliges, Faculty Senate President

June 5, 2011

Dear Colleagues,

On behalf of the faculty, we mourn the passing of our cherished colleague and  friend Anna Barbara Sakurai.

Anna Barbara wanted students to succeed. She would spend hours upon hours tutoring and encouraging them. Then, when they succeeded, and they would; she would celebrate their success.

She would always listen to her colleagues. When we sought her advice, she would always ask what we thought. She might have asked us a question or two, to help us hone our thoughts. She wanted each one of us to succeed. I relied on her advice often. It was never wrong!

She cared deeply about helping the homeless . She wanted them to feel love. Ten years ago, when I came to Webster, I read an email that she sent out requesting help to feed the homeless at St Peter and Paul. I went and met this wonderful woman who cared so dearly about doing whatever she could to help feed the homeless. She fed them; She clothed them; She loved them!  She
treated them with the utmost of dignity. She taught me so much!!!

How do we spell the name of our university?      Webster.   NO.   It is spelled      A-n-n-a      B-a-r-b-a-r-a.

Well done, our faithful teacher, servant!!! You will always be in our hearts.

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