Clayt William Cuppy’s colleagues knew when he arrived at work for the day. The USF graduate student had a tendency to talk about hockey — the Tampa Bay Lightning, to be exact.
Talking about statistics, however, is only one of the things the USF mathematics department will remember him for.
Cuppy, a graduate student and teacher’s assistant in mathematics, died on Thanksgiving in a hiking accident while visiting the Grand Canyon. He was 35 years old.
The last few years of Cuppy’s life were spent in the mathematics department, but Marcus McWaters, chairman for the department, said he learned the most about him in Cuppy’s first year as a teacher’s assistant. And throughout the years, he learned about Cuppy as an outdoorsman.
“He was teaching classes for the department, and one of the things you find out rapidly, is …whether they’re popular and second, you learn if they’re good,” McWaters said. “We found out instantly he was popular, because students were clamoring to get into his classes.”
Cuppy touched the lives of not only the students he mentored but those he studied with, as well, McWaters said.
For the mathematics department Cuppy’s loss was tragic. Its members are still in shock. McWaters said that he can sense this from the mood change just by walking through the halls.
McWaters said he wasn’t sure how experienced a hiker Cuppy was, but he knew Cuppy spoke about it with other hikers in the department.
Colleagues in the department are devastated by his death, McWaters said, and he assumes students in the basic math courses Cuppy taught feel the same.
“I’ve seen from his evaluations that his performance was always positive,” McWaters said. “And attendance was very good in his class, and that was rare.”
But McWaters will never forget Cuppy, a native of Indiana, as the adventurous type.
“He was a big hockey fan, and he talked to several professors about his outdoor activities,” McWaters said. “We picked different sports. He asked me how I got my exercise, and I told him from playing racquetball and bike riding. But you could tell bike riding was too tame for him.”
Just by listening to a few of Cuppy’s anecdotes, McWaters said he could tell there was a different kind of enthusiasm in him than the kind he brought to the classroom.
“When he would talk about the outdoors, he was more responsive,” McWaters said. “He was also very personable to where he could come in to talk to you about things going on in classes or his life.”
Denise Marks, senior word processor in the mathematics department, enjoys hockey, just like Cuppy did.
“We both shared an interest in hockey,” Marks said. “He would always talk about the Lightning, and I would run into him at the games sometimes. Clayt was always happy, always smiling. He really enjoyed life. He was just a fun guy to be around.”
Cuppy was working toward a master’s degree in mathematics. He is survived by his parents William and Kara Cuppy, his stepbrother Bill Cuppy, Jr., and his sister Kara Littlefield.
A private funeral service will be held for Cuppy today at Kroeger Funeral Home in Logansport, Ind.