Students and alumni remember late English professor

Fresno State students, staff and faculty are remembering Fresno State Professor Steve Adisasmito-Smith. (Courtesy of Fresno State)

Fresno State students, staff and faculty are remembering Steve Adisasmito-Smith, a professor from 2003 to 2022, after his death on July 10. He was 57.

Adisasmito-Smith passed away in an unexpected accident during a family trip to Hawaii while trying to save a friend’s children from treacherous waters, according to a news release from the English Department.

During his 19 years at Fresno State, Adisasmito-Smith, a specialist in world literatures and expert on mythology, folklore and ancient Sanskrit writing in translation, connected with numerous students on campus who said they were inspired by their time with him.

“Steve was one of the first instructors who made me feel like I might actually have something of value to add, and that’s hugely important for students. Looking back on my time in college, I really don’t know if I’d have made it through without Steve,” said alumna Emily Basiletti Alcalá.

Alcalá recalled coming to Adisasmito-Smith’s office multiple times while struggling with mental health issues, and having been met with kindness. 

“He opened up about some of his own struggles, which helped me feel less alone,” she said. “He was just a genuinely lovely human being.”

Alumna Serena Chedotte similarly remembered Adisasmito-Smith being there for her during “one of the lowest parts” of her life.

“When my mom passed away from COVID-19 during that first semester I took [with] him, I saw no point [in continuing] my education. I was doing it for her to begin with. Professor Steve didn’t accept that, and he made me continue to fight for myself,” Chedotte said.

Multiple students hope that Adisasmito-Smith will be remembered for his humor and encouragement, with alumna Nou Her describing “Dr. Steve” as “vocal and animated” during class.

“You know how you have the monotone professors who drone on for two hours or so? Steve was definitely not one of them. Classes always felt really short with him,” said Her, who took through classes with the professor during both her undergraduate and graduate years.

Former student Samantha Brookshire said she “enjoyed his class so much” that she asked him to be part of her thesis committee when advancing to candidacy for her masters.

“He needs to be remembered for so many aspects of his life, but a very important one is remembering him as the incredible, loving, fun, passionate teacher that he was every day he came to work. He loved his job, and it was clear how much he loved it,” she said.

Brookshire and other former students of Adisasmito-Smith’s who have now gone on to teach themselves intend for his passionate teaching style to live on within their own classrooms.

“I wouldn’t be the writer, reader, or teacher that I am today without his influence. A lot of who he was in the classroom translates directly to how I run my own college classrooms,” Brookshire said.

“If he knew you cared and really wanted to learn, he took the extra time to challenge you, ask you questions and push you to think about new things,” Alcalá said. “In many ways, I use his teaching as a model for my own.”

Adisasmito-Smith is survived by his wife Niken Adisasmito-Smith, a linguistics lecturer at Fresno State. Smith married Niken Adisasmito in 1995, when they took each other’s surnames. Together they came to Fresno from Illinois in 2003, when they joined the English and linguistics departments, according to the news release.

No funeral service will be held. Instead, a celebration of life will be held on Thursday, Sept. 8 at 6:30 p.m. inside the Wahlberg Recital Hall in Fresno State’s Music building. Free parking will be provided with the coupon code 264401. 

The family is encouraging attendees to bring an artifact with a brief memory of Adisasmito-Smith to be included in a memorial scrapbook. Items can include a photo, drawing, poem or other. 

At this time condolence cards, scrapbook items or gifts for the family can be mailed to Niken Adisasmito-Smith, in care of Keith Ford, 4758 E. Austin Way, Fresno, CA 93726.

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