Psychology professor Dean Murakami is mourned by ARC community

Murakami had a passion for social justice and fought for students rights

After a battle with cancer, respected psychology professor Dean Murakami died on Dec. 23, 2020.

After a battle with cancer, respected psychology professor Dean Murakami died on Dec. 23, 2020. “A gentle giant” according to psychology professor Tori Bovard, he advocated for the rights of students and faculty. (Photo courtesy of American River College)

Athena Acevedo, Feature Editor

Longtime American River College Psychology Professor Dean Murakami died on December 23, 2020, from a battle with cancer, according to a statement released by the college.

Murakami taught at ARC for over 30 years and was the president of the Los Rios College Federation of Teachers.

According to his colleagues, Murakami had a passion for helping lift up historically underrepresented students in the population and to fight for social justice.

“I remember Dean telling me how important it was for him to teach a course each semester, so that he could keep his finger on the pulse of what was important to students and faculty,” psychology professor Lisa Bertaccini said. “It was the kind of commitment that enabled Dean to hone his keen ability to listen, bridge worlds, and advocate.”

According to his colleagues, Murakami cared deeply about students’ education and their quality of life as well.

He campaigned against the proposed tuition increase several years ago and always looked for resources to address food and housing insecurity that some students faced,” English-as-a-Second-Language professor Oranit Limmaneeprasert said. 

According to many of his colleagues, Murakami was a respected faculty member at the college who “you wanted to have on your side.”

“When I did meet Dean, I was struck by his kind, accessible, and self-effacing demeanor,” Bertaccini said.

To keep his memory and lifelong work for the improvements of college students and faculty, Limmaneeprasert started a memorial scholarship.

During the ARC scholarship application period, students will receive an email to apply for Murakami’s scholarship through the Office of Philanthropy. The application will be open from mid-February through the first Friday of March.

Limmaneeprasert says she hopes the scholarship will allow Murakami’s work for the college to continue for generations of students to come.

“Many people here know him for his work for labor, but Dean did so much more,” psychology professor Tori Bovard said. “He fought for students and the entire community college system. He was a “gentle giant” and one you really wanted on your side. Dean had a passion for social justice and made it his life’s work.”