Ethan Ryan Remmel


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Ethan Ryan Remmel, 41, an Associate Professor of Developmental Psychology at Western Washington University, died at home in Bellingham, Wash., on Monday, June 13, 2011, 10 days after teaching his last class and a year after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. He is survived by his partner, Grace Wang; sons, Miles Remmel and Seth Remmel-Coakley; and ex-wife, Lynn Coakley, all of Bellingham, Wash.; sister Rachel Remmel; sister-in-law Linda Stanley; nephews, William and Ben Remmel of Rochester, N.Y.; best friend Eric Martin of Durham, N.C.; and parents, Kathy and U. Charles Remmel II of Portland, Maine.

Ethan was born in Brunswick, Maine on June 28, 1969. He attended Waynflete School, which is a private preparatory school near Portland, and Yale University, graduating with a dual major in computer science and psychology, and then moved to San Francisco, where he began his professional life in Silicon Valley, working first for Oracle and then for several other leading software companies. Despite financial and professional success, Ethan left this career behind to return to his love of education, service and young children, earning his psychology Ph.D. at Stanford University under the direction of Dr. John Flavell, the father of meta-cognition studies.

In Bellingham, Ethan fulfilled his desire to live on the ocean, walk to work, and prioritize teaching by joining the faculty of Western Washington University, where he was honored to have been nominated for an outstanding teaching award last year. As an academic, Ethan contributed well-regarded studies on hearing impaired children and was a respected book reviewer for the American Scientist. Students and faculty have started a scholarship fund in Ethan's name that will support a student with interests in child development. Donations can be made by visiting and typing in 'Ethan Remmel Scholarship.'

Throughout his life, Ethan was as happy exploring the outdoors in Maine, hiking along an alpine ridge in the West, as he was in art galleries, fine restaurants and thumping dance clubs. A good athlete who loved basketball, he surprised opponents on the court with a leaping ability and killer instinct that belied his slender frame. He was a passionate world traveler as well as a philanthropist and volunteer, serving as a peer supporter for San Francisco's Shanti program for people living with AIDS, mentoring in the Big Brother program, coaching Bellingham youth basketball and volunteering in Bellingham schools. Curious, fiercely disciplined and independent, funny and adventurous, six foot two with bright blue eyes, Ethan will be remembered for his gentle kindness, intellect, love of family and friends, and passion for sports, as well as the blogs he kept during the last year of his life. Ethan's public blog, Living While Dying : Learning to Live in the Face of Cancer was published by Psychology Today, inspiring readers worldwide with his meditations on cancer, death and dying and with the grace, dignity, and clarity with which he have faced his terminal illness. \

Ethan's family would like to thank all the people who helped during the last year of his life: the many friends who traveled to Bellingham from all over the United States to visit Ethan; his academic friends and colleagues at WWU; the kind and wonderful Dr. Sam Whiting of the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance; Whatcom Hospice; Compassion and Choices, and many others.

Ethan specified that he would value donations in his name to the Natural Resources Defense Council, American Civil Liberties Union, and Amnesty International.

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