Adjunct business professor Richard F. Gerson, whom family, friends and associates described as “instantly likable,” passed away Monday at the age of 56. His son Michael Gerson sent a mass e-mail notice to his father’s contact list Tuesday morning, only to be bombarded by an outpouring of sympathy and condolences.
“There are over 100 responses so far in only eight hours. I just randomly selected a few to send your way,” Michael Gerson said in a letter to the Oracle on Tuesday. “It will give you an idea of how, no matter if someone formally knew my father, he instantly touched them and earned their respect.”
Richard Gerson’s brother Steve said the letters were a potent example of the impact his brother’s life had on people.
“These will give an idea of who Richard was,” Steve Gerson said.
From both local and long-distance associates, the letters expressed a joy in knowing Richard Gerson.
“Your father was a great, great man. I can’t say enough of how highly I thought of him personally and professionally. He was one of the most instantly likable people I have ever met and he was unfailingly generous with his time and effort. He was truly one-of-a-kind and will be missed,” Mark Snow wrote in a letter to Michael Gerson. Snow is vice president of HRDpress.com and was a business associate of Richard Gerson.
Richard Gerson had been with the University for only two years, but he made an immediate impact on the faculty. Both Lorie Briggs, director of communications and external relations at the USF College of Business, and Alan Balfour, chair of the management department, remember him for his love of teaching.
“We are very saddened by the unexpected death of this man who appeared to be in excellent health. It is causing us (in the college) all to appreciate what we have. With all sincerity, it has been a sobering and saddening experience to lose a colleague and friend who loved teaching,” Balfour said in a statement Wednesday.
His love of teaching was present in the letters sent to his son and also expressed by Michael Gerson himself.
“He was one of the greatest men ever to walk the earth – always giving to anyone who would put out a hand and always teaching anyone who would lend an ear,” Michael Gerson said. “Richard has impacted many different people in multiple different ways, changing lives, building businesses and just being someone to talk to. My dad was not only my father but my best friend. There is no one on earth like him, and there will never be anybody who could wear his shoes.”
Richard Gerson was teaching three classes at USF over the summer. His course load included two sections of Strategic Management and one section of Organization Assessment. Regular full-time faculty will be picking up the remainder of his courses, Briggs said.
Richard Gerson was an adjunct at USF for the past two years and planned on teaching three more courses in the fall, Briggs said.
Richard Gerson was awarded his doctorate in sports psychology from Florida State University in 1978 before founding Gerson Goodson, Inc. – a Clearwater-area management-consulting firm – in 1979. His wife, Robbie Gerson, is the executive vice president and a managing partner of the firm.
According to the mass e-mail sent to Richard Gerson’s contact list by Michael Gerson, Richard Gerson went to dinner with his wife Sunday evening, came home, watched the NBA finals and went to bed sometime after midnight. Robbie Gerson tried to awaken Richard Gerson at 8:30 a.m. Monday, but he was unresponsive.
“His health, as far as we knew, was absolutely fine,” Richard Gerson’s brother Steve said. “He had a checkup six weeks prior.”
Michael Gerson stated in his letter that the cause of death was cardiovascular in nature but that his family was still unsure what specifically happened.
A private ceremony will be held Friday.
Richard Gerson is survived by his wife and two sons.