In Memoriam: Dr. Erylene Piper-Mandy
Dr. Erylene Piper-Mandy passed away unexpectedly on September 24, 2020 after a long struggle with illness. Erylene’s passing is an incredible loss to her immediate and extended family, particularly her beloved son Rocky, her church community, her university department colleagues and especially her students whom she mentored, sheltered, encouraged and inspired along their rich and varied pathways to adulthood. Dr. Piper-Mandy leaves behind a legacy of inspiration, a glittering tapestry of talent, and an infrastructure of compassion that continues on in the lives of those she touched. Some enter and exit this world with a whimper; others, like our dear Erylene, descend like a meteor, leaving the world upended and forever altered.
Erylene was born in Boston, Massachusetts into a large extended family. An exceedingly bright student, she went on to obtain her B.A. with Honors in Psychology and African American Studies at Vassar College in New York, and then a Master’s degree in African American Studies at Boston University, where she also served as a Ford Foundation Fellow. She began her teaching career at La Faculté des Lettres et Sciences Humaines in Dakar, Senegal, and then upon moving to southern California became a lecturer at UC Irvine and UC Riverside while she completed a second Master’s degree in Cultural Anthropology, and subsequently her doctorate at UCI. Her intellectual talents were recognized through numerous fellowship awards in all of these institutions of higher education.
From the beginning of her career, she was an ardent activist educator, working as an independent consultant with churches, youth and women’s groups, school districts, social work programs, correctional facilities and community organizations to advance multiracial/multicultural understanding and collaboration. A gifted orator and spiritual leader, she spent her spare time preaching to and counseling her own Seventh Day Adventist congregation and providing ministry to a wide range of other regional churches. At the time of her passing, she was the Executive Director of Center for Cross Cultural Competence, an organization that provided trainings in cross-cultural competence, participatory research and advocacy strategies, and presentations by social scientists to public and private agencies.
Dr. Piper-Mandy arrived at California State University, Long Beach in 1989, and over the course of her 30 years with us taught essential courses in Black Studies/Africana Studies, Human Development, Sociology, Anthropology and Comparative World Literature. Remarkably, she taught 8 different courses in Africana Studies, and 5 out of the 7 required courses for the major in Human Development. Her reach was far greater than these majors, however, since her courses were regularly cross-listed with other programs, like Chicano and Latino Studies, Asian and Asian American Studies, and Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies. Sitting outside with Erylene for her office hours was like accompanying a visiting dignitary. Students clearly adored her, looked up to her and sought her out for guidance and direction. Her phenomenal teaching was recognized by a Teaching Excellence Award by the University in 2018. Dr. Piper-Mandy was also named the Most Valuable Professor by our 2018 Outstanding Graduate, Emi Lee. She was honored at the Alumni Associations’ Award Banquet for this distinction.
Erylene was well-known on campus for her kindness, offering a quiet hello and a gentle word in passing to colleagues known and unknown. In recent years, she was closest to a group of fellow lecturers in Human Development. Together they shared an office (“the F02 223 crew”), regular in-office and off-campus celebrations, and a raucous camaraderie rare among the high-pressure, road-warrior lecturer cohort in southern California. As further evidence of their unusual bond, Erylene and several of her Fo2 colleagues wrote a popular text, Childhood and Adolescence: A Multidisciplinary Approach, published in 2014.
Together, the faculty and staff of the Human Development Department want to express our deepest gratitude to Dr. Piper-Mandy for her unmatched contributions to the department and to CSULB, and for her unwavering support of our students, who will surely carry on her righteous work in her name.