The Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign mourns the loss of beloved friend and colleague, Andy Isserman.
Andrew Isserman pursued all he did with intense passion: teaching, scholarship, friends, and family. Professor of Regional Economics and Public Policy in the departments of Urban and Regional Planning and Agricultural and Consumer Economics, with an accompanying appointment in the Institute of Government and Public Affairs, Andy was playing a game of pick-up basketball with fellow Urban Planning faculty, Thursday evening (November 4), a practice for a court challenge from graduate students. Fellow faculty were surprised at his skill, given that he hadn’t played for many years. Andy collapsed from a heart attack shortly after the end of a first game. EMT’s on the scene and physicians at Provena Medical Center were unable to revive him.
In the past few years Andy had been pursuing an active research agenda focused on rural prosperity, the regional impact of federal programs and spending, and federal approaches to defining urban and rural places. He was taking increasing interest in planning history, case study research methods, and the use of stories and storytelling as ways to “engage the future”–one of his favorite entreaties to planners of all stripes–more proactively and creatively.
This semester, Andy had been teaching The Power of Story in Planning, a graduate course in urban planning, and a Campus Honors course called U.S. Cultures and Economies in Contemporary Film. Both courses shared Tuesday night movie viewings and carried a common thread of effective storytelling through conveying personal experiences and improving writing skills. It was a new experiment for him and he was thrilled at the prospect of reaching students in new ways. As the end of the semester approached, Andy was preparing enthusiastically to teach his revised UP 505/Urban and Regional Analysis course in the spring. Andy’s teaching abilities were consistently recognized on the university’s list of Teachers Ranked as Excellent by their Students, even as he maintained an extremely active research agenda. He also served as the dedicated and caring director of the PhD program in Urban and Regional Planning.
While Andy’s teaching and scholarship skills were unquestionably remarkable, it is Andy’s big heart and contagious, delightful happiness that will linger with us most.