PROVO — A BYU professor whom students and faculty described as vivacious, passionate about different cultures and very direct died Monday due to complications with the flu, according to a statement from the university.
Delynne Peay, 62, taught in the dance department since 1974 and was the longest-standing faculty member, according to BYU.
"You realize even more after they're gone all the different ways somebody is part of your life," BYU professor Ed Austin said. "It's been a shock."
Austin said Peay was gone so suddenly, after feeling ill around the holidays and later checking into the hospital, making her death harder for those around her.
"In a week and a half, she was gone," he said. "(It was) very, very sudden."
Peay taught thousands of students, many of whom were not dance majors, Austin said.
"She gave herself to this program and to the students she served," he said.
Peay's death is one of 11 known deaths due to complications of the flu in Utah this season. Seven had been reported in Salt Lake County as of Friday, with three in Washington County.
Mindi Manes, epidemiologist for the Utah Department of Health, said there have been 478 flu hospitalizations reported through Jan. 11 and 50 last week.
"This year does seem to be a more severe strain, especially because we're dealing mostly with H1N1," Manes said. "Twenty-five percent of our hospitalized cases required ICU, which normally is at 15 percent. We are seeing a lot more of the disease in the 25- to 49-year-old range, where normally we see it in the younger and older age groups."
Despite those numbers, Manes said, Utah already reached the flu peak during the first week of January.
"We are on a downswing," she said.
The Utah Department of Health is still urging everyone to get flu vaccinations. It's not too late to do so, Manes said.
Son Brock Peay said he remembers many Christmases and Thanksgivings when his home was filled with people from all over the world who came to BYU to take his mother's folk dancing classes.
"There's lots of people that call her their second mom," he said. "She loved different cultures. She loved sharing that with us, with her kids and family."
Brock Peay said his mother cared deeply about the folk dancing program, about the university and her students.
Amy Jex, adjunct faculty at BYU, worked with Peay as a student and later as a colleague and friend.
"She was a very direct person," Jex said. "But if you listened to what she said to you and you really took those corrections and you implemented those details, she could really help you to improve."
Former BYU student Sarah Burroughs said hearing the news about her professor was shocking.
"I just was stunned," she said. "It's not something you expect. That could happen to anyone."
Burroughs said Peay always had a lot of energy.
"I was surprised at how much technique she had, and how much energy she had," she said. "I just really respected her as a teacher."
BYU student Cody Phillips said it was very clear that Peay loved her own culture and those from around the world, particularly the Polish culture.
"Delynne was about a vivacious a person as you can imagine," he said. "She had a passion for life that was unequaled and that was contagious."
Phillips recalls attending his first folk dance class, with Peay as his professor.
"She took a chance on me," he said.
Phillips continued to dance through the program at BYU and internationally. Many of those experiences were life-changing, he said.3 comments on this story
"I'll forever be grateful for that," Phillips said.
The university has recreational folk dancing nights throughout the semester, and Wednesday's dance was dedicated to Peay.
Former BYU folk dancers set up a donation page for those wishing to help the family.