Love and death equaled bittersweet loss of science dean

By Chelsea Boone

The Hampton University department of science was shaken up this year when they lost their dean. 

Douglas DePriest died on Tuesday, Oct. 13 at the age of 65. DePriest is a Hampton alumnus who earned a Bachelor of Science in mathematics from the university in 1966. He began working at Hampton in 1999 as an associate professor of mathematics.  DePriest later became assistant dean in the school of science and then acting dean in the school of science.

DePriest was a large part of Hampton University.

“The Hampton University community is truly saddened by the passing of DePriest,” President William R. Harvey told the Daily Press. “His diligent and heartfelt work as an administrator, scientist and mentor at his alma mater will be missed.”

Students were also affected by the loss of DePriest.

“I was shocked and then I was sad,” said Jerome Adams, a senior engineering major at, about DePriest’s death.  “There is an absence of his personality in the engineering department.”

Timothy McCall Jr., a sophomore biology major from Baton Rouge, La., said he was upset when he heard about DePriest’s death.

“He seemed to be a man that truly cared about his students and wanted the best for everyone majoring in science,” McCall said.

DePriest’s death has caused a change in the school’s dynamic.

“When I heard about the death of Dean DePriest I was in disbelief, just because he was such a nice man and important part of our department, said Natasha Thomas,” a junior chemistry major from Queens, N.Y.

“I can see a kind of emptiness in the teachers in the engineering and physics department,” said Adams. “They all spoke very highly of him,”

DePriest also offered encouragement to his students, even though he may have never taught them in a classroom.

McCall said he was nervous about being accepted into a science program. He stumbled into DePriest, who offered him encouraging words.

“After telling him my GPA, he said, ‘With a GPA like that you have no worries,’ the student explained. ‘Learn to be confident in yourself and your abilities because you’re going far son.’

“When he told me that I really needed to hear it and so it saddens me that Hampton has lost someone that truly cared about students.”

“He was very dedicated to HU,” said DePriest’s fiancée, Linda Malone-Colon. “He did whatever he could to help Hampton students,”

DePriest proposed to Malone-Colon on her birthday, a week before his death. She is chair of the HU psychology department

DePriest surprised her with an arrangement of roses, a basket of toiletries, a card and he took her to a restaurant for her birthday. Later that night he proposed while they were watching a movie together, Malone-Colon explained:

“I couldn’t have asked for more.”

Malone-Colon hosted the Hampton University marriage conference only days following DePriest’s death.

“Marriage and families is my passion and my calling,” said Malone-Colon.  “We had all the components of a healthy relationship for a marriage.”

Hosting the conference was a struggle for Malone-Colon with the loss of her fiancé, but she turned to God for guidance.

“There is no way I would have gotten through the conference without God carrying me through it,” Malone-Colon said.  “I am still looking for spiritual meaning out of all of this.”

Malone-Colon still keeps in touch with DePriest’s children and they kept her in the planning process for his funeral.  DePriest had a large family – he was one of 13 children – and was very close to his family.

The couple hadn’t made many plans, but knew they were going to have a large wedding Malone-Colon said.

“One of the things that came to mind at the funeral,” she said, “was these are the people that should have been at my wedding.”

The writer is a junior at Hampton University Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications