The Spanish & Portuguese Dept. is mourning the loss of director and professor Timothy McGovern who passed away Monday morning from unknown causes.
Undergraduate Advisor Molly Okuneff said McGovern, 41, was at his mother’s house in Simi Valley Sunday evening when he collapsed at around 7:30 p.m. He was revived at a nearby hospital shortly afterward, and remained in critical condition until around 2:30 a.m. Monday, when he passed away.
Carol Conley, Spanish & Portuguese Dept. graduate program assistant, said the cause of death is inconclusive, as evidence of the autopsy did not confirm the previously speculated heart attack. She said an investigation will continue until a clear cause of death is found.
“[The coroners] don’t see evidence of a heart attack …[but] his heart was enlarged,” Conley said. “They are looking into possibly food poisoning. It’s not clear yet.”
While maintaining his responsibilities as director, McGovern was also teaching two classes this fall including a queer studies freshmen seminar and an upper-division Spanish teaching methodology class.
Okuneff said it is likely the department will find a replacement to teach McGovern’s classes by early next week. Okuneff said other classes in the department ran as scheduled yesterday.
“He was teaching a freshmen seminar and graduate student course, so those were cancelled [Monday],” Okuneff said. “I believe everyone else has been teaching their classes.”
McGovern has been employed at UCSB since 1998. He received his bachelor’s degree in Spanish from Cal State Northridge in 1989, obtained his master’s degree in Spanish from UCLA in 1993 and his Ph.D in Romance Linguistics and Literature in 1997 also from UCLA.
He has taught a variety of courses at UCSB including Brazilian Literature, Queer and Gender Studies and Portuguese and Spanish Culture. He has received numerous awards and fellowships and published many books and articles during his career.
Conley said Spanish & Portuguese Dept. faculty, staff and graduate students are taking over the responsibilities that McGovern left behind.
“We are all basically taking over the ship,” Conley said. “It’s hard, but its what we are doing… Life has to go on.”
Okuneff said most people in the department are responding to the loss with tears and commiseration.
“Everyone is shocked, it’s just unbelievable,” Okuneff said. “Everyone is around just giving condolences and [there are] lots of tears.”
Conley said McGovern’s memory will live on through the entire department.
“He was just a real character [and] just really fun,” Conley said. “You meet him and you feel comfortable; it’s definitely a big loss here.”
Okuneff said a memorial service will be held early next week. Until then, students are welcome to sign cards for McGovern’s family in the Spanish & Portuguese main office.
Conley said she last spent time with McGovern at a graduate student welcome barbecue held last Friday that McGovern helped coordinate.
“We were just all at a barbecue on Friday laughing and having fun and now he’s gone,” Conley said.
Conley said she had known McGovern for two years when she began working in the department in December 2003.
“I remember meeting him on my first day [of working at UCSB],” Conley said. “He made me feel very comfortable.”
In addition to his loving demeanor, Conley said she will always remember McGovern for his sense of humor. She said the two shared a number of jokes about Phelps Hall – the building where the Spanish & Portuguese department is located.
“We always had our jokes,” Conley said. “He would always say ‘It’s so nice to be at UCSB,’ And I’d say, ‘Have you had your Phelps phix today?’ And he’d say ‘It’s a Phelpsy kind of day.'”