Deaths in the family

Author: John Nagy ’00M.A.

Terrence J. Akai, senior associate dean of the Graduate School, remembered by friends and colleagues as a cool head in difficult times and as a superb advocate for student development, died at his home on February 28. He was 59.

A native of Guyana who studied engineering at the universities of Washington and Illinois, Akai spent his entire professional career at Notre Dame, arriving on campus in 1976 as a research associate in aerospace and mechanical engineering. He soon assumed teaching duties and designed no fewer than 15 different courses over the years, including offerings in computer science and engineering and mathematics. Along the way, the popular Akai built a reputation for single-minded dedication to student success and earned every outstanding teaching award available to him as an engineering professor, including the University’s Madden Award for the instruction of first-year students in 1986.

By that time, Akai had entered administration in the College of Engineering, vigorously promoting the quality of teaching and research and, over time, taking on all tasks from admissions to outreach programs for minority and women students to academic assessment. In 1994 he moved to the Graduate School. “He had a broader knowledge of the Graduate School than any other person,” Dean Gregory Sterling wrote in his announcement of Akai’s passing to graduate students. “If I may add a personal note, I feel that I have lost my right arm.”

Barbara Turpin, a longtime friend and colleague of Akai’s at the Graduate School, said Akai’s delight in people was always evident, whether hosting his young daughter’s birthday party as a widowed father 27 years ago, or in recent times when administrative reshuffling left their office short-staffed. “He was a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy who smoked a couple of packs of cigarettes a day and played racquetball religiously,” Turpin said.

Terry Akai is survived by his wife, Becky, and his daughter, Carol.

Charles Craypo, a professor emeritus of economics who believed academicians should strive to be artisans practicing their craft in pursuit of justice, died March 22. He was 73.

Craypo’s childhood in Jackson, Michigan, shaped his lifelong research interests and advocacy on behalf of wage earners, his friends and colleagues said. He joined the Marine Corps out of high school and served two years before entering Michigan State University, where he earned bachelor’s and graduate degrees in economics. “Warm, generous and kind” in the words of economics Professor Martin Wolfson, the wisecracking and storytelling Craypo came to Notre Dame in 1978 and taught at the University an aggregate of nearly 20 years, returning in 1984 from a two-year stint at Cornell University to chair the department. In 1993, he founded the Higgins Labor Research Center, now the Higgins Labor Studies Program, as an engine for scholarship on labor issues grounded in the Catholic social tradition espoused by its namesake, Monsignor George G. Higgins.

An early practitioner of “community-based research” commissioned by local organizations, Craypo exemplified the approach the Higgins center promoted. Two examples included highly regarded studies of Rust Belt deindustrialization — using the lens of the demise of South Bend’s Studebaker Corporation — and of the working poor in Saint Joseph County. Together with what one peer called his “path-breaking” work on industrial labor relations, Craypo’s reputation and interests made him an oft-cited leader in his field and oft-consulted witness before U.S. House and Senate committees.

For Craypo, economics “was useful to the extent that it shed light on and could help to improve the plight of working people,” Professor David Ruccio said. “He was always incensed by injustice and had little patience for those who either perpetrated or ignored the injustices suffered by working people.”

Craypo was equally committed to the young faculty he hired and to a generation of Notre Dame students — from the numerous doctoral candidates he mentored to the undergraduates in the one-credit seminar on Wal-Mart he taught in his retirement. Many of the hours he didn’t spend at Notre Dame in his last year he gave to the local public schools, where he volunteered as a teacher’s assistant.

Charles Craypo is survived by his wife, Mary, their children, Jack, Carrie and Sue, and three grandchildren.