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'Service Of Remembrance' Honors STAFS Donors

May 18, 2012
SHSU Media Contact: Beth Kuhles

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The family and friends of Robin Steffens, who donated his body to SHSU's Southeast Texas Applied Forensic Science Facility this year, light a candle in his memory. —Submitted photos


The Southeast Texas Applied Forensic Science Facility honored 27 individuals, including six veterans and a cancer victim whose final weeks were documented in a KTRK news story, for donating their bodies for research at the facility during the 2011-2012 academic year.

The annual Service of Remembrance paid homage to individuals and families who have generously given the ultimate gift to the facility, one of only four willed-body centers for criminal justice research in the world. In addition to families, invited guests included Sam Houston State University students, faculty and staff.

“Thank you so much for the valuable gift you have given to Sam Houston State University,” said Joan Bytheway, STAFS director.

The donors were remembered in song and prayer as well as through special tributes from College of Criminal Justice and ROTC staff and students.

“Your family members will never be forgotten because they have become a valuable asset for science and medicine that will allow them to live forever in the lives that they save and the lives that they save from being forgotten,” said Angela Rippley, a recent graduate from the Master of Forensic Science program and STAFS researcher.

The program also included a special commemoration for those who were veterans by Lt. Col David Yebra and members of the SHSU ROTC Program.

“Those we remember here today made a sacrifice so that others can continue the fight in search of truth so that justice can be preserved,” said Yebra, professor of military science and chair of the ROTC program. “Those who we remember here today seek truth and justice and they will never be forgotten.”

Angela Rippley speaks
Forensic Science Graduate Angela Rippley shares her experiences at STAFS.

Cutty Gilbert, an adjunct faculty member and director of development and alumni relations for the College of Criminal Justice, recalled her own mother’s donation to the Baylor College of Medicine. She said after reflecting on the donation for STAFS, she realized the significance of the contribution.

“One day perhaps a student in our program will solve a crime or make a profound forensic discovery utilizing the knowledge and skills they acquired here,” said Gilbert. “During this time at our facility at SHSU, I hope you know the students’ efforts are a direct result of the extraordinary and generous contribution you and your loved ones have made.”

Since opening its doors in 2009, there have been a total of 68 donations to STAFS, a state-of-the-art research and training facility designed to advance academic and technical knowledge in the application of forensic science disciplines to crime scenes and criminal activities. The facility’s predominant focus of study is the application of forensic sciences to the human body and the vast amount of evidence that can be gleaned from the careful recognition, collection and preservation of the evidence.

The donations are used in a wide variety of research, including anthropology, toxicology, criminology, geology, microbiology and chemistry.

“For our students, those who we are now honoring have become the best professors they can ever have, teaching them things that cannot be found in any other way,” said Randy Garner, criminal justice professor and chaplain for the service.

The facility trains students, law enforcement official, academicians and forensic specialists.

While all donations are confidential, Robin Steffens, of Huntsville, opted to share his life–and death–with KTRK-TV and to promote the value of scientific research at the facility. Anchor Art Rascon followed Steffens through the last three months of his life after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer and donated his remains to STAFS.

His story can be seen at the KTRK website, as well as at www.allthatIhavetosay.com.



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