University News

In Memoriam: Florence Sullivan

Florence Rita Sullivan, a professor of math, science and learning technologies in the College of Education, passed away at her home in Easthampton on June 1, 2022 surrounded by her family.

florence sullivan
Florence Rita Sullivan

Sullivan was funded by the National Science Foundation to develop and study K-12 computational science/thinking and worked collaboratively with teachers in Holyoke and Springfield to integrate robotics and computer science into the curriculum. Her book, “Creativity, Technology, and Learning: Theory for Classroom Practice” grew out of her research and service in local schools. She also delighted in her students' learning and was deeply invested as a doctoral mentor.

Born in 1962 in northern California, Sullivan did her undergraduate work at the University of California at Santa Cruz, then New College, and graduated some years later from San Francisco State University. She lived in the Bay Area for 18 years where she devoted her creative energies to writing and performing music, which eventually lead her to sound production and then digital learning. Florence left California in 1999 to pursue a doctorate in cognitive psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University, where in addition to obtaining a Ph.D. and being active in the Iraq antiwar efforts, she met Celia Oyler, whom she married in 2007 in Northampton.

Professor Sullivan loved life, including playing tennis, dancing, engaging in the ongoing struggle for racial and economic justice, spending time with her family, riding waves every summer on Cape Cod, and making music with friends, including at the annual American Research Association Conference in an academic rock band.   

She is survived by her wife, Celia; their three children, Kyana Otero, Elly Perez and Naizejha Perez; her new grandson Enzo Fogg; her siblings Elizabeth, Trudi, James, Anne, Daniel, and Kathleen Sullivan; her brother-in-law Lance Bergman; nieces Sara Nuño-Villa, Guadalupe Nuño-Nunez; Anne Elizabeth Bergman, Marisol Nuño, Seinin Opacic, Julie Bergman, Nicole Sullivan; and her chosen family Aimee and Nepemba Katembo. Also left to mourn her untimely departure is her devoted mother-in-law M. Irene Oyler and many dear friends, students and colleagues. She was predeceased by her mother and father Sara J. and Richard B. Sullivan and her brother John Richard Sullivan.

A green burial and memorial sharing circle will be held on June 9, 2022. Please email: for details.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to UMass Amherst for the Florence R. Sullivan Memorial Scholarship. To make a donation, please go to Florence R. Sullivan Scholarship.Checks, made payable to the University of Massachusetts Amherst, can be mailed to: Records and Gift Processing, Memorial Hall, University of Massachusetts Amherst, 134 Hicks Way, Amherst, MA 01003. Please write the "Florence R. Sullivan Memorial Scholarship" on the memo line of the check.