Scott Nygren was serious about his love for the humanities. But the UF English and film studies professor wasn’t the least bit serious around those who knew him.
Nygren’s wife of 28 years, UF English professor Maureen Turim, worked down the hall from him in Turlington. She said when they first met at a film conference, she thought he was too stoic.
“We would joke about that afterward,” she said.
Turim lost her husband this past week to his battle with cancer. Nygren was 67.
Sickness could not silence Nygren, the director of UF’s Center for Film and Media Studies. He wrote personal essays on his Facebook during his stay in the hospital.
“Although I am isolated from other patients due to risk of infection, the Internet connects me to family and friends and to competing discourses in contemporary society,” he wrote.
While Nygren was in the hospital, he sent one of his students a video he had taken of him performing at a concert, said Nick Mendez, a 21-year-old UF English junior.
“It was such a personal thing to receive,” he said. “His commitment to being overly positive in the face of death was incredibly powerful.”
Nygren always wore his signature grin, said Ohio State associate professor Roger Beebe, who spent more than 13 years working with Nygren at UF.
“When I see him in my head, he has this giant smile,” he said. “He convinced a lot of us he was going to beat this thing.”
Nygren’s legacy will live on at UF, where he was chairman of the Faculty Senate and a member of the Board of Trustees from 2011 to 2012. He was also involved in the presidential search.
Nygren was generous with his time and ideas to help the campus community, said Kenneth Kidd, UF English department chairman.
“He was a really important part of our faculty,” he said. “He was one of those people who contributed on every level. It’s a huge loss for us, and he will be significantly missed.”
Nygren’s love of the humanities did not stop at his work. He often attended film screenings, conferences and lectures, and he always asked questions.
He fostered a sense of community within the English department, said UF assistant professor Anastasia Ulanowicz.
“He was very concerned with the state of our department and the importance of the humanities,” she said. “His championship of humanities has strengthened my own commitment to the importance of humanities within the university.”
To commemorate her husband, Turim started a memorial fund for graduate students in the English department.
During his time at UF, Nygren taught classes on introduction to film criticism and theory, avant-garde film, documentary film and video production.
Nygren even wrote a book called “Time Frames: Japanese Cinema and the Unfolding of History.”
Turim said she and Nygren loved watching Japanese films together.
Although cinema was more than what brought Turim and her husband together, it was a large part of their lives.
The couple spent their free time at the Hippodrome State Theatre and RISK Cinema film nights at the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art. Turim said the two of them loved traveling as well.
“We did a lot of traveling together, and he would always plan everything out,” Turim said. “I’m a little spontaneous. I love the mixture of when I could convince him that we should do something he hadn’t planned on, and it would be spectacular.”
Although Turim and her husband kept separate presences at work, their lives were intertwined.
Without her movie aficionado, travel companion, colleague, best friend and husband, Turim will now have to go on alone.
“Life was our project together,” she said.
[A version of this story ran on page 3 on 4/1/2014 under the headline "Professor Scott Nygren remembered for passion, zest for life"]