Saybrook Master Paul Hudak has announced plans to step down from his post and take a medical leave of absence, effective Nov. 1, to receive treatment for leukemia.
In an e-mail to Saybrook students Friday, Hudak said he has a rare form of the cancer, which was detected in December 2009 and diagnosed in June 2010. Hudak has been undergoing chemotherapy since early July, and his illness is in remission. Doctors have found a suitable donor for a stem-cell transplant, which will take place at the Smilow Cancer Center at Yale-New Haven Hospital in mid-November. Hudak said that during his absence, Japanese literature professor Edward Kamens ’74 GRD ’82 will serve as acting master.
“This community — each and every one of you — means a great deal to both Cathy and me,” Hudak said in the e-mail, referring to his wife and associate master of Saybrook Cathy Van Dyke. “I ask for your support during this difficult time, and look forward to the day when we return.”
Kamens and his wife, former Saybrook College master and current Yale College Dean Mary Miller GRD ’81 both said that while they are saddened by Hudak’s departure, they view this as another opportunity to serve the college and the University.
“I regard the request to serve as something that I am pleased to do in order to be of help of him [Hudak] and the Saybrook community, especially the students,” Kamens said.
Miller said that while Kamens’ new job will be “a challenge” for her family, she and Kamens both “love Saybrook students.”
University President Richard Levin expressed his support for Hudak in an e-mail to Saybrugians on Friday afternoon, sent shortly after Hudak’s announcement. Levin said that Van Dyke will retain her position through the end of the semester, but will live off campus with Hudak in the spring.
“The entire Yale community shares with Saybrook our concern for Master Hudak’s well-being,” Levin said. “I know that you all join me in hoping for a successful transplant and treatment.”
Hudak was appointed master of Saybrook in July 2009. He assumed the position from Kamens, who had held the job since December 2008, when Miller left to assume the deanship of Yale College. Previously, Kamens was an associate master for over nine years.
Hudak’s announcement to take a medical leave was unexpected for Saybrook students, most of whom had not known of Hudak’s illness until his e-mail Friday.
“On the whole, people are shocked and very saddened,” said head freshman counselor Andrew Ruben ’11. “Master Hudak is a huge presence in the college.”
Throughout Saybrook, students and faculty have expressed their concern for Hudak in what Miller called “an outpouring of affection and support.”
Riley Ford ’11, captain of Saybrook’s intramural hockey team, said his interactions with Hudak centered on hockey and recalled Hudak’s support of the hockey team.
“We drove out to a hockey shop where he paid to have our skates sharpened and then he came out and skated with us,” Ford said. “He just threw himself into Saybrook and made a huge effort to connect with everyone.”
Kamens said Hudak and Van Dyke made Saybrook “a wonderful place for students to be,” and added that he hopes to build off their work.
Ruben said he thinks Kamens will be “a great presence” in the college while Hudak undergoes treatment and recovers.
“We’re all sticking together on this one,” Ruben said.
Hudak, a computer science professor, came to Yale in July 1982. He helped establish the computing and the arts major in the Computer Science Department in 2008.