Remembering Trudy

Jenna Staul

Hundreds attend memorial service in remembrance

A note was taped to the locked door of Room 104 in Bowman Hall Friday afternoon. The dean’s office of the College of Arts and Sciences will close early, it said, as staff were attending the memorial service for political science professor Gertrude Steuernagel.

They were among the hundreds on hand in the Kiva – colleagues, friends, family and strangers – who filled the theater, celebrating the life of Steuernagel.

“She was my favorite aunt,” said Jessica Daniels, Steuernagel’s niece.

Submit your memory

The women’s studies program started a Web page in memory of Trudy Steuernagel. Anyone who would like to send in words or photos in remembrance of Steuernagel may do so by e-mailing Suzanne Holt, the director of the women’s studies program, at [email protected].

See the tributes at

Daniels recounted simple moments with her Aunt Trudy – crimping her aunt’s hair in uneven zig-zags and filling out college applications together.

Her tone changed when she spoke of Steuernagel’s untimely death.

“The last time we rushed up to Kent was when Sky was born,” she said. “We will fight like hell for him. She knew we’d always be here for Sky. Sky will never be alone.”

Steuernagel was found beaten in her Franklin Township home Jan. 29 and died Feb. 6 after spending a week at Akron City Hospital. Her son, Sky, 18, who is autistic, has been charged with attempted murder and assault of a law enforcement officer. He remains in Portage County Jail on $2 million bond.

Steuernagel began her career at Kent State in 1975 and served as the chair of the political science department from 1983 to 1987. She authored several books and has garnered numerous teaching awards.

Friends and family alike took to the podium draped in an orange and red tie-dyed cloth surrounded by bouquets of wild flowers. Some remembered Steuernagel with light-hearted jokes – her hearty laugh, her penchant for wearing lace ankle socks and sneakers, her frequent trips to McDonald’s with her son. Others remained more solemn. But each spoke of the students whom she guided, the family whom loved her and the son who was the center of her life.

“She was (Sky’s) biggest fan and most ardent supporter,” said Sarah Hastings, a former student of Steuernagel. “The best example of parenting at its finest.”

Hastings said Steuernagel became a fixture in her life well beyond the time the two spent in the classroom together, and at times, a shoulder to lean on. After Hasting’s own son was diagnosed with autism, Steuernagel became a “tireless advocate for him.”

“She talked to me about how people will drift from your life (after the autism diagnosis),” Hastings said. “She was right.”

Former student Irene Barnett leaned forward onto the lectern as she reflected on her relationship with Steuernagel, whom she studied with as a graduate student. The professor had become a role model in her life – guiding her through ups and downs, sometimes with a sense of tough, motherly love, she said. What she’ll miss the most, it seemed, were the simple moments the two shared.

“That laughter, my God, it was classic,” Barnett said.

Contact public affairs reporter Jenna Staul at [email protected].