Campus celebrates the legacy of beloved professor
Hundreds of people gathered Monday in the Numen Lumen Pavilion to share stories and happy memories of Professor Heidi G. Frontani, a faculty member in the Department of History & Geography who had died of a sudden illness just three days earlier.
In the words of one colleague, Professor Heidi G. Frontani “was an angel” with “the kindest and purest heart.” Another praised her energy and passion.
Several others described the way she helped bring a health clinic to rural Ghana as faculty mentor to Elon's Periclean Scholars Class of 2010.
Hundreds of people shed tears and laughed aloud together Monday afternoon as they remembered the lasting impact of a faculty member who died Feb. 26, 2016, of a sudden illness. A “Gathering of Friends” featured remarks by Frontani’s colleagues and former students, all of whom spoke highly of a geography professor with a passion for sustainability, service and development work.
“We are here to remember Dr. Heidi Frontani, to give thanks for her life, to remark on how she changed us for the better,” said the Rev. Jan Fuller, Elon University’s chaplain.
The program filled the Sacred Space and adjoining McBride Gathering Space of the Numen Lumen Pavilion.
From her commitment to the people of Africa to the way she spoke her mind in confronting injustice of all types, Frontani’s legacy “is how she treated people,” one person said. “If you could take that and spread it like a virus, this world would be the kind of place she wanted it to be.”
Frontani had been a prolific scholar and student mentor since joining the Elon faculty in 1998. At the time of her death, she was serving as a Senior Faculty Research Fellow, working on a book on charitable foundations and the birth of medical philanthropy in Africa.
She also held many leadership roles over the years, most recently as co-chair of the implementation and assessment team for the Presidential Task Force on the Black Student, Faculty, and Staff Experiences at Elon.
Frontani served as coordinator of the geography program from 1998 to 2011, chair of the Department of History & Geography from 2009 to 2012, and as interim coordinator of the African & African-American Studies program from 2014 to 2015. She also served at various times as faculty advisor for the “Visions” environmental magazine and for the Gamma Theta Upsilon geography honor society.
In closing the program, Fuller reminded the community that mourning Frontani does not need to be done alone. “Grief has its own way and it isn’t done with us today,” she said. “I want you to find each other and not (grieve) alone. Grief is not meant to be isolated. It’s meant to be shared.
“We need to be together in this. Care for yourselves. Care for each other.”
There will be a public viewing from 1-6 p.m. Tuesday, March 1 at Lowe Funeral Home and Crematory located at 2205 South Church Street in Burlington, North Carolina. Messages of condolences to Heidi’s family and loved ones may be sent to their home at 207 Random Lane, Burlington, North Carolina 27215.
The Frontani family, including Heidi’s husband, Associate Professor Michael Frontani in the School of Communications, requested that memorial gifts be made to ScholarCHIPS (www.scholarchipsfund.org), a nonprofit that provides college scholarship assistance to children of incarcerated parents.
Yasmine Arrington ‘15, one of Frontani’s students, founded and runs the Washington-based nonprofit.