A biology instructor on vacation ahead of his student’s arrival drowned on Christmas Day in Costa Rica. Craig Stettner, a full-time associate biology professor at Harper College in Palatine, Illinois (USA), since 2002.

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Kathy Bruce, dean of mathematics and science at Harper said the Harper community has been in shock and grieving since hearing about Stettner’s death.

“His classroom had no walls,” Bruce told the Dialy Herald on Thursday. “He wanted his students to experience what he was teaching them. And so one of the most frequent ways was you’d see Craig on campus with a class full of students in waders with nets and buckets. They’d be out to the Harper pond collecting specimens or they’d be traveling to the Harper prairie to do some observing.”

Stettner was in Costa Rica preparing to lead a group of Harper students in field research in the Costa Rican rainforest from Jan. 3 to 13 for the short-term study-abroad program.

The students were to volunteer at a wild animal rescue center, attend lectures and spend five evenings at a tropical rainforest field station as part of their learning. Bruce said the trip has been canceled.

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Harper College President Ken Ender expressed his condolences to Stettner’s family. He said the instructor inspired his students. “He was an excellent teacher, an invaluable colleague and a friend to all who worked with him,” Ender said in a statement.

On the social media, many like Amy Eddings said she can’t find quite the right words to express how much comfort we (the Stettner family) have received by reading the many tributes expressed here for Craig. “We all knew Craig loved his work and loved his students, but we didn’t realize how highly Craig was regarded by his students because (of course) Craig was incredibly humble and would never say anything more about himself or his accomplishments than was necessary”.

Jennifer Chung wrote, “It’s taken me a while to post this…mainly because when I first found out, I couldn’t believe it (…) I still don’t want to believe it. I’m not even sure what to say…what words could I possibly use that would even come close to describing how kind, compassionate, and inspiring Craig Stettner was.”

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