Film and English Professor Robert Leuci of the University of Rhode Island passed away Monday, Oct. 12 after complications from surgery.

His passing came as a surprise to many of his students, most of whom were unaware of his deteriorating health. This shock has prompted a group of Leuci’s students to create a memorial film in his honor.

“He was someone everyone knew and who everyone felt connected to if they had taken a class or even just met him in the hallway,” said Amelia Votta, a recent student of Leuci and a coordinator of the memorial video. “A lot of people had things left unsaid or just feel the need to express how much they appreciated and admired Professor Leuci that they maybe never got to say to him in person. A lot of us [his students] felt like we owed to do something for him…hopefully this video will keep it nice and sweet but be able to get across to the world and to his family what he meant to the URI community as a whole.”

The video will be shown on Nov. 6 during the University of Rhode Island’s memorial service for Leuci. It is the coordinators’ hope that this video will help students and faculty gain closure in dealing with his death.

“It’s not only a piece to set the mood for the memorial service, hopefully people will be able to not only get closure but be able to celebrate him,” Votta said. “And I hope wherever he is now he would smile and say ‘wow I really did affect all these people and made them so happy.’”

Leuci was not just an average professor at URI.  “He reached a lot of people in the classes he taught,” Votta said. “You met him and you didn’t know how successful or accomplished he was. He was a humble guy that wanted to help you reach the best that you could be. Before he worked here he was an undercover narcotics cop.”

In 1970 Leuci worked in a narcotics unit in New York City when he decided to turn his life around and go undercover in his own division to inform a prosecution team of the corrupt officers he worked with. But he did not stop changing lives there, as he continued until his death to help and support the students he taught at the university.  

“He was really a mascot that lit up these hallways,” Votta said. “He would try and brighten everyone’s day. It’s a little darker now without his smiling face around. I just hope he knows that we appreciate how much he still brought to our class. I wish we could have helped him in the way that he would help us.”

On Friday, Oct. 23, between 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. all are welcome to come to Conference Room 111 in Swan Hall to say a few words about Professor Leuci for the video.

“Whether you knew him a second, a minute, a day or years, definitely feel comfortable coming and talking.” Votta said. “We want everyone there to be able to express what Professor Leuci meant to them so don’t feel like you don’t know him enough or you don’t have enough to say because anything is appreciated. Your words matter and I think they would matter to him.”