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Mace & Crown | April 25, 2018

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Purple Passion Dinner Honors Late Professor

Maggie Giordano | Contributing Writer

A good professor sends students off with required knowledge. A great professor also touches their hearts.

The legacy of Dr. Jill Dustin, who passed away in January from lung cancer, was honored at the annual Purple Passion Dinner held by the Human Services Association and Tau Upsilon Alpha Human Services Honor Society on March 24. Purple flowers, the color for cancer awareness, stood tall in vases by the door and on tables in the Baron and Ellin Gordon Art Galleries, representing the reason for the event.

Dustin was associate professor within the Department of Counseling and Human Services. An accomplished writer who received many honors and awards, including the President’s Award from the National Organization for Human Services, she was also active in the Human Services Association hosting the Purple Passion Dinner and Relay for Life annually, along with many other fundraisers for the university.

“The goal is to honor her life. She was a really big part of the Human Services Department at ODU. She did a lot of the behind the scenes things we never saw. Tonight is all about honoring her life and all of the work she has done with the department. She is going to be very missed,” senior Jennifer Sayers said.

For the past eight years, ticket sales from the annual dinner and money raised from the silent auction  are donated to “Relay for Life,” the signature fundraiser of the American Cancer Society. “Relay for Life,” a walk to raise money to find a cure for cancer, consists of one team member walking the track at all times to signify that cancer never sleeps. Volunteers host the event in more than 5,200 communities and 27 countries.

“This evening is to honor the life of Dr. Jill Dustin. As you know, she was very special to us,” Human Services Association president and junior Ivon Portellez said.

Dr. Radha Horton-Parker and Dr. Narketta Sparkmen-Key, who were long time friends of Dustin, shared special memories and stories with the crowd. They discussed the work she did with the university, memories from their friendships and shared her personal rule to “live life to the fullest,” emphasizing Dustin’s passion for her students.

“In my humble opinion, it all comes down to love. Dr. Dustin was one who loved greatly and loved deeply,” Horton-Parker said.

The evening menu included salad, potatoes, chicken, green beans, rolls and cheesecake. The silent auction of various items such as wallets, bags, jewelry, hair clips and inspirational wall art included a raffle where the winner won an “ODU Relay for Life” T-shirt.

The Human Services Association will be hosting a Hawaiian-themed table at “Relay for Life,” which will be on April 7-8 from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. For more information on Relay for Life or the Human Services Association, go to