After 32 years as a DePaul staff member in Student Affairs, Cynthia M. Summers left an indelible mark on many of the faculty, staff and students she worked with during that time. A former associate vice president and interim vice president for Student Affairs who retired in 2014, Summers passed away at her home on Sept. 7 after an extended illness. For those who had the pleasure of knowing her or working with her, they know what a loss her passing is for her family, community and DePaul.
“It’s no surprise that Cindy was a cheerleader in high school,” says Peggy Burke, a retired associate vice president for Student Affairs who worked alongside Summers for 30 years. “Cindy participated in any way that she could, from the first soccer game of the season to Baccalaureate mass and everything in between: involvement fairs, award ceremonies and more. And she was cheering everybody on along the way.”
To Burke, Summers’ commitment to and love for DePaul was clear in everything she did for and said about DePaul and its community, and it rubbed off on everyone around her. Jeff Lanfear, director of University Counseling Services who worked under Cindy for 16 years, couldn’t agree more.
“Cindy loved the DePaul community with her heart and soul,” he says.
Lanfear also praises her skills as a leader, noting that under her guidance, groundbreaking services for the LGBT community were introduced, sexual violence prevention programs were created, the office of Health Promotion and Wellness was established and University Counseling Services transitioned from the department of psychology to Student Affairs. Beyond her ability to marshal and grow programs, Lanfear praises Summers as a kind and caring leader who looked for the good and positive in students and staff alike.
“She could be firm and challenging when necessary, but you always knew she cared about you as a person,” he says.
But Student Affairs wouldn’t be Student Affairs without students, and Summers’ former colleagues had much to say about her professional knowledge of and great care and concern for college students.
Jim Doyle, former vice president for Student Affairs who worked with Cindy for all of her 32 years noted that she was a persistent advocate for students.
“She became known for her strong influence and leadership in developing the unique elements of the DePaul student experience,” Doyle says. Those elements, to this day, are mission integration, service, involvement, co-curricular programs, student success, leadership development and personal growth. “But beyond her general understanding of the student experience, Cindy also found time to work with many individual students.”
“In her heart was always what was best for students,” Burke also shares. “She would hold them accountable and help them learn, but she also supported them through crises, and really just loved them.”
It wasn’t just the traditional college student that Summers championed; a good deal of her career was focused on students who fell outside of the typical 18- to 24-year-old age range, or who did not immediately attend college after graduating from high school.
“Cindy took delight in the expansion of services for veterans, adult and commuter students,” Lanfear recalls.
Summers also had a full life outside of her work. She enjoyed a happy marriage of more than 40 years to her husband Bruce, and had close relationships with all three of her brothers and her many nieces and nephews. Like all of us in so many ways, Summers also was just a regular person, who loved candy, always had an appropriate quote handy for any situation and adored the Chicago Bears, Blackhawks and White Sox.
In summing up the impact that Summers had on DePaul, though, and what she would be remembered for most, Lanfear said it best.
“What a privilege for the DePaul community to be blessed by over 30 years of Cindy’s presence and leadership among us,” he says. “Her dedication and life’s work at DePaul, all the good, the means, the ways, the people she touched, will leave an enduring legacy.”
If you are looking for ways to honor Summers’ memory, she and her family have requested that donations be made to DePaul’s Student Emergency Assistance Fund or a fund for veterans
. The Student Emergency Assistance Fund
is a collaboration between the Division of Student Affairs and the scholarships office, and Summers played a primary role in its creation many years ago. The fund assists students when they are experiencing a financial crisis that impedes their academic progress, and in emergencies the Dean of Students Office can provide financial assistance to help with housing, books, transportation or other necessities. DePaul's Student Veteran Union empowers student veterans to transition successfully into academic life.
To donate to DePaul's Student Emergency Assistance Fund or the DePaul Student Veterans Union, please visit the giving page created
in Summers' honor.
A memorial visitation will be held on Friday, Sept. 28, at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, 1010 W. Webster Ave., Chicago, at 10 a.m.