Ross Steven Brinkert, 49, of Glenside, an associate professor of corporate communication at Penn State-Abington, died Thursday, Aug. 20, of brain cancer at his home.
For the last 15 years, Dr. Brinkert had taught at the Abington campus, where he was loved and respected, according to an online tribute.
“He was the archetype of grace, integrity, courage, kindness, humility, and humanity,” said Salar Ghahramani, a friend and associate professor of business law and international law and policy. “Simply put, Ross leaves a legacy of beauty, having positively touched so many lives across generations and backgrounds.”
Diagnosed with brain cancer 13 months ago, Dr. Brinkert taught until early August. He accepted his early death with grace and on his own terms.
“Ross remained present, purpose driven, and grateful, living every moment deliberately,” Ghahramani said. “He never complained of the challenges he faced. Instead, he would say it was all humbling.”
Born in White Rock, British Columbia, Dr. Brinkert grew up cleaning offices for his family’s corporate cleaning business.
He graduated from Earl Marriott Secondary School in Surrey, British Columbia. A precocious student and athlete, he qualified as a Canadian ski instructor and by age 16 was teaching children to ski at Cypress Mountain in West Vancouver.
At age 17, he spent a year as a Rotary Club exchange student in East London, South Africa, where he met Colby Keyser, an exchange student from Revere, Bucks County. They married in 1997.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in communication studies from Concordia University in Montreal and a master’s and Ph.D. in applied communication management from Temple University.
When he arrived at Abington in 2005, he helped launch the corporate communication major and was its first full-time faculty member, Penn State said in its tribute. His colleagues chose him to serve as the faculty ombudsperson on campus.
His scholarly work in three published books dealt with how organizations can turn conflict into opportunity and how professionals can represent themselves at different stages in their careers.
Teaching brought him joy. “Ross loved teaching his students, working with his colleagues, and connecting with people and helping them find meaning and purpose,” his family said in a statement.
He planned and chaperoned trips to Japan so that his students could experience Japanese culture within the corporate setting.
Aisha Boursiquot, a communication major, accompanied Dr. Brinkert to Japan on one of his trips before graduating in 2018. “Dr. Brinkert was so supportive and understanding,” she told the Penn State News. “He was always positive and full of light.”
He was a member of the National Communication Association’s training and development division. The group, in Washington, honored him with the 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award and named the division’s Rising Star Award after him.
Although skiing was his first love, he enjoyed running, biking, and swimming. His desire to set and reach high benchmarks led him to compete in multiple marathons and triathlons, including a half Ironman triathlon.
Despite pushing himself to succeed, Dr. Brinkert was gentle, kind, and compassionate to others.
“He took time to make you feel like you were the most important person in the room,” the family said. “He asked questions and listened; he remembered the details and made people believe that they were important, worthy, and could achieve anything.”
He enjoyed spending time with his wife and two daughters, especially partaking of the family’s nighttime tea. “He would make it and deliver it to the girls, if they were upstairs,” his wife said.
They traveled overseas and enjoyed hiking as well as vacations at a home in New York’s Catskill Mountains.
Besides his wife, he is survived by daughters Eshen and Sagan; parents Rosie Rothe Sieg and Ingo Brinkert; two brothers; and a stepsister and stepbrother.