Campus remembers professor as “friend, colleague, mentor”

UNA lost a mentor, leader and friend.

Former communications professor Jason Flynn died Oct. 18.

His funeral was Oct. 22 at the Trinity Episcopal Church off Pine Street. The Department of Communications hosted a public memorial event for Flynn Oct. 27 in the Communications Building

Flynn inspired many with the work he accomplished for UNA’s Film and Digital Media Production program, said Andrew Reed, former UNA professor and assistant professor of Film and Media Arts at the University of Pikeville, in an email.

“He built a great film program at UNA and guided a lot of people into the film industry,” Reed said. “He worked hard, and he taught us to set a high bar for our own work. You can always produce better work, and you want to keep pushing forward — Flynn taught me that.”

Flynn struggled to see the wonderful qualities of the world, Reed said.

“It is my belief that God deeply cares for us and wants us to find peace through him as well,” he said. “All we have to do is ask for it. There is a lot of beauty in this world if you look. I think Flynn just couldn’t see all the love for all the hurt in his way.”

Flynn had a profound impact on senior Austin Parsons, he said in a Facebook post.

“My first time ever visiting the University of North Alabama, I met Jason Flynn at the Communications Department, and he gave me a tour of the department and showed me different things about the film department that seemed very interesting,” Parsons said. “I wanted to be a part of it. He helped me feel at home as a student and as an important asset to the program.”

Not only was he a wonderful teacher, but he was a great person as well, Reed said.

“Flynn was a good friend, colleague and mentor,” he said. “He will be dearly missed by many. I believe he is with God now and that he now fully sees and understands just what kind of impact he had on his students.”

Flynn instilled a love for film within Parsons, but he could also extract a laugh out of him, too, he said.

“He made me crack up numerous times, and he always could get you laughing even if you weren’t in the mood to laugh,” Parsons said. “I have many memories with Flynn that I will cherish.”

Flynn’s humor could brighten up a stressed student’s day, said senior Haley Fields.

“(Flynn was) so laid back all the time, but (he) always pushed us to do our best,” Fields said in a Facebook post. “(He was) always there with some witty remark or sarcastic quip.”

Alumna Chelsea Yarber oftentimes heard those sarcastic quips outside of the Communications Building, she said.

“He would constantly be outside of the (Communications) Building, and anytime I tried to parallel park, he’d let me know that I had failed miserably,” Yarber said.

But his humor was comforting in a time of stress, she said.

“In March, I showed up to his office in tears,” Yarber said. “I thought I wasn’t going to graduate because I was missing two hours. He knew I was upset but he left his office anyways. He winked, gave me a grin and just left without saying anything. I was so angry, I thought he didn’t care. I was wrong. I was so wrong.

“He did what any gentleman would do and came back with two granola bars and a Diet Coke. He said, ‘Eat these, Pageant Girl. I grabbed the healthy stuff in case you’re dieting.’ I’ll never forget looking at him through tears and laughing because those granola bars must have been about six years old. I was super stressed that day, but he made me laugh so hard after that conversation. That was just him though. He’d drive you crazy but still show his heart in the most unique way.”

Although freshman Emily Fisher did not know Flynn well, he still made an impression on her, Anne said in a Facebook post.

“When Film Club had its first meeting of the year, I was really nervous to go,” Fisher said. “But I went, and (Flynn) sat near me and was the first person to say anything to me. (Flynn) made me feel welcome at Film Club.”

Students, faculty and staff can reach out to Student Counseling Services for support at 256-765-5215, said Director of Student Counseling Services Lynne Martin in an email.

“Grief is not an event, but a process, and we each manage the process in our own unique ways,” Martin said. “Sometimes grief can be difficult to navigate and feel overwhelming. In those times, we must reach out for support to be more successful in the work associated with grief. Also, we should be mindful that the impact of a death may not fully manifest itself in us for several weeks.”

Campus members should be willing to reach out and comfort others, she said.

“This is truly a time to be observant and help take care of those in the UNA family that are around you,” Martin said. “Please take the time to intervene and ask if you can be of help.”

Editor’s Note: Chelsea Yarber is a former student writer.