Accolades and an assortment of puns highlighted a memorial service in honor of Alfred Sussman, former dean of Rackham School of Graduate Studies. Current Rackham Dean Earl Lewis, Regent Emerita Gertrude Huebner, professors, friends and family gathered to commemorate his 40 years of service to the University.

“Al had been a masterful leader,” Lewis said. “I would be forever in his debt. Al should be lauded.”

Sussman served as Rackham Dean from 1974 to 1985 and retired from the University in 1990. He died on Nov. 19 last year.

He participated in a variety of University programs and organizations, including the MD/PhD program, Inteflex and University Senior Housing. He received a Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award in 1972 for his work as chair of the Department of Botany from 1963 to 1968 and as associate and acting dean of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts in 1970 to 1971.

“He marches across my memory in more rolls than Peter Sellers,” Huebner said. “He automatically was qualified for all of the posts … without all of those search committees.”

She added an anecdote about Sussman’s “absolutely extraordinary vocabulary” and said Sussman epitomized the song “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better.”

Many speakers addressed Sussman’s legacy as a logophile and humorist, saying his puns and jokes were necessary to understand him.

“Mark Twain said, ‘Humor is one of humanity’s greatest blessings,’ and I say, ‘Yes, Al, that’s true,'” Prof. Emeritus George DeMuth said of Sussman’s humor.

Also a distinguished researcher, Sussman published more than 100 papers on the biology of fungi.

“Other researchers are still citing Al’s papers from 30 to 40 years ago when the average paper has a citation life of five to 10 years,” Prof. Charles Yocum said.

But Sussman still managed to bond with his students and maintain a love of teaching.

“There was a certain attraction of wanting to be around him,” Edward Allen, a friend and former graduate student of Sussman’s, said.

The service, which included a reception and video presentation, was held Friday afternoon at the University Commons.

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