Professor Cerutti’s Memory Remains in the Hearts Of Many

Gloria Lau
January 20, 2011

Psychology professor Daniel Cerutti passed away last week after collapsing on campus. A memorial service took place on Wednesday Jan. 19.

CSU East Bay psychology assistant professor Daniel T. Cerutti passed away Jan, 10, but heartfelt memories still remain with his students, faculty and family.

Cerutti passed at Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, where he was taken by an ambulance after he collapsed on campus.

Cerutti taught six courses at CSUEB during his tenure: General Psychology, Experimental Psychology, Conditioning and Learning, Comparative Psychology, Heredity and Behavior, and Comparative Laboratory.

Cerutti taught at Duke University from 1999 to 2005 before he began teaching at CSUEB in 2007, serving as a member of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. He also served as a member of the faculty at Davidson College from 1994 to 1997.

“We were tremendously fortunate to have persuaded him to come teach here,” said Psychology Department chair Marvin Lamb. “He had a very accomplished career, lots of publication journals and he’s also a fabulous teacher.”

Students like Jennifer Huyn, 20, and Jeremy Alfonso, 21, both seniors and psychology majors, described Cerutti as warm, nice and funny.

“If you were going through problems, he would let you off easy,” said Huyn.

Huyn says that when Cerutti was late for class, it was because he was busy overexerting himself in assisting students to understand the material.

Huyn took Cerutti for Comparative Psychology in Fall 2009 and Experimental Psychology in Fall 2010. Alfonso took Cerutti for Conditioning and Learning in Summer 2010.

Huyn and Alfonso both reflected on memories of Cerutti and his unique brand of humor when it came to teaching.

“He would always have ways to make you pay attention,” Alfonso said. “He said he would draw a dog to demonstrate classical conditioning, but instead, he would draw a pigeon, so the class would say ‘That’s not a dog,’ and then they would pay attention.”

“I remember when we had a very early morning class,” said Huyn, “and some people fell asleep. Cerutti joked that he would need a Nerf gun to shoot people who fell asleep.”
Lamb agreed with Alfonso and Huyn about Cerutti’s humor.

“He would always sign his name followed with a pigeon drawing,” said Lamb.

Cerutti’s favorite animal was a pigeon. On his website, Cerutti said that the largest part of his research… “aims to understand the timing behavior of birds and fish working for delayed rewards.

Although they appear to be adapted to very different niches, their timing is surprisingly similar to our own; pigeons and fish underestimate the arrival of periodic food in the same way that we underestimate the time to complete a task.”

Stacy Trevino, administrative support for the Psychology Department, said that Cerutti gave Christmas presents to every staff member in the department.

“He was dependable and supportive,” said Psychology Department Office Manager Julie Mielke. “And he always greeted you with a smile even if he was in a bad mood.”

Cerutti won the psychology students’ votes for Professor of the Year in 2010.

Cerutti’s memorial service took place at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 19 in the New University Union.

Cerutti was a resident of Pleasanton. He leaves a wife, Rosa, and two children, son Giordano and stepson Manuel Pena.

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