David Przybyla, professor emeritus of psychology and director of the organizational studies program, was the type of teacher who kept in touch with his students long after graduation. He’d hang their wedding announcements and birth announcements on his filing cabinets, recalls Associate Professor Sarah Hutson-Comeaux ’91, who notes that “he was always running to the bookstore to get a gift for a former student with a new life adventure.” Sarah had a unique relationship with David—having been both his student at Denison, and later, his colleague in the Department of Psychology. Following his retirement last fall, she honored her former teacher and colleague by taking over leadership of organizational studies, which had been the highlight of his career.
David had led organizational studies since 2001, growing it from an on-campus program with visiting lecturers to one that combined curricular studies with an experiential component over a multi-week summer session. David took his students to cities like New York, San Francisco, and Chicago, where they visited workplaces ranging from the Googleplex to the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Students built negotiation, teamwork, and leadership skills in the classroom, then gained exposure to a range of different industries—and “most of that exposure was done by alumni Dave had known during their time at Denison,” says Sarah.
“Denison President Adam Weinberg always says that Denison is about relationships, and one of the great examples of that was Dave keeping close contact with his students well beyond their graduation,” says Department of Psychology Associate Professor Susan Kennedy, who considered David to be the older brother she’d never had. Whether buying her thoughtful gifts for taking care of his cats while he was away or taking students out for dinner, “He was the most generous person I’ve ever met,” Susan says.
Beyond Denison, David loved old movies, especially black and white films and anything starring Doris Day. He enjoyed dining out, especially at Italian restaurants. He loved animals, especially his pet cats. And he loved his students—who, in turn, adored him. “Students loved Dave. His office always had students around,” says Susan. “We talked a lot about the fact that we were at Denison because we love interacting with students. He really exemplified that aspect of our profession.”
David died at home on April 12, 2021, following an illness. He is survived by his brother, Lawrence (Carol) Przybyla, and nephews Brian, Adam, and Jason. He is fondly remembered by the Denison colleagues, friends, and students he taught and mentored during his 35-year career that commenced after he earned his B.S. from SUNY College at Fredonia, his M.S. from Purdue University, and his Ph.D. from SUNY-Albany.