Students, family reflect on the life of ASL faculty member Becky Rees


Photo courtesy of Jennifer Wahl-Hughes

Becky Rees, the beloved member of the American Sign Language faculty, known for her humor and joyful attitude towards life, died unexpectedly this past weekend. 

Rees was an instructor for the ASL program at Central Michigan University who began sharing her knowledge of ASL and deaf culture in 2011, according to a statement by the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. 

"Becky personalized her interactions with her students, encouraging them and helping everyone feel supported even when separated by masks and computer screens during COVID," the statement said. "She was a valued member of the ASL faculty team, active in Deaf Awareness Week celebrations, a good friend to her colleagues, and an advocate for students.  We will miss her stories, her puppy photos, her laughter, and her smile."

A common thread among those who knew Rees was her unrelenting love for her work and students. 

"She was passionate about ASL and educating others about it," said CSD Executive Secretary Lorie Fox. "Becky’s passing leaves a hole in our hearts as well as our department." 

Rees' classes had been online only for the majority of the semester, but this didn't keep her from engaging with students as best she could. 

"She made such an impact on me through the screen," said Lowell junior Gwen Hackett.

Hackett was informed about their professors passing through an email sent out by the CSD. They said that the department has been extremely understanding and supportive of students who are struggling with the passing of their instructor.

Hackett chose to remember the wonderful moments Rees had brought to classes, including Rees showing off her new puppies to the students.

"(She) spoke to us with the most joy, we went to class for Becky," Hackett said. "I just want people to know how kind she was."

Becky is survived by her husband, two children and several family members. 

"I am very proud of my sister," said Rees' sister Jennifer Wahl-Hughs. "I am so amazed by all the responses and messages and pictures everyone has sent my family, it makes me so proud that she made a difference in everyone's lives."