The annual Purple Passion Dinner honors late ODU education professor

Maggie Giordano | Contributing Writer

Originally published March 2017

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

Dr. Dustin recently died of lung cancer in January 2017. She was an associate professor in the Department of Counseling and Human Services. She was active in the Human Services Association where she hosted the Purple Passion Dinner and the Relay for Life annually, as well as many other fundraisers for the school. She was an accomplished writer and received many honors and awards, such as the President’s Award by the National Organization for Human Services, for her work in Human Services.

“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.

The dinner and auction has been hosted annually for the past eight years. The money raised through tickets and silent auction is donated to the Relay for Life.

Relay for life is a large fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. It is an event where teams gather to walk and raise money for a cure for cancer. One team member must be 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 Dr. Dustin, shared special memories and stories with the crowd at the podium. They discussed the work she did with the university as well as memories from their own friendships with the professor. They also shared her personal rules to “live life to the fullest.” They emphasized that Dr. Dustin was incredibly dedicated to her students.

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

The evening included a dinner of salad, potatoes, chicken, green beans, rolls and cheesecake. A silent auction of various items such as wallets and bags, jewelry, hair clips and inspirational wall art was held, which later included a raffle where the winner won a white collared shirt that had a logo for ODU Relay for Life.

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