Stephen A. Norwick was remembered Sunday in a meadow at Sonoma State University, the campus where he spent nearly four decades teaching generations of students.
The banjo-playing professor charmed those who knew him with his warmth but earned deep respect with dogged scholarly pursuits that wound through geology and environmental studies, folk music and literature.
"The term Renaissance man applies," said Rocky Rohwedder, chair of SSU's environmental studies and planning department.
About 300 people filled white chairs on the green lawn Sunday for a celebration that was supposed to be a retirement party.
But Norwick died June 19, 11 days after he was struck and gravely injured by a hit-and-run driver as he cycled on Petaluma Hill Road.
His sudden death was briefly but deeply acknowledged Sunday by Reb Irwin Keller of Cotati's Congregation Ner Shalom.
"This sucks," said Keller. "Being here today really, really sucks, that it happened the way it did, fast and flukish, unexpected, robbing us of any chance to offer our good-bye."
The day then turned to remembering the man who, in Keller's words, "studied the how and lived in the mystery of why."
Told in turn by colleagues, current and past students, longtime friends and family, stories recounted in the lakes area of campus pieced together a portrait of Norwick.
"Eclectic, humorous, arcane, ditsy," said Paul Judge, a 1974 graduate who then worked as a university lecturer.