WOU professor hit and killed while riding his bike

WOU professor hit and killed while riding his bike »Play Video
Henry Alexander Bersani, Jr. (photo courtesy of Western Oregon University's website) is pictured with a photo of the crash scene (courtesy of the Oregon State Police).

MONMOUTH, Ore. - A Western Oregon University professor was killed while riding his bike on Saturday.

Henry Alexander Bersani, Jr., 61, was struck by a pickup on Highway 99W about one mile north of Monmouth. The crash happened around 11:20 a.m.

According to the Oregon State Police, a 2001 Dodge Dakota was headed northbound on Highway 99W when Bersani, who was cycling in the same direction, moved from the shoulder of the road into the truck's path.

The driver of the truck told police that he tried to avoid a collision by veering to the left, but the right front of the truck hit the bicycle from behind.

Bersani, who was wearing a bike helmet, was ejected and ended up in the middle of the highway. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The driver of the truck, a 68-year-old man from Monmouth, was not injured and he cooperated with police. An investigation into the crash is under way.

Bersani taught special education at Western Oregon University. The college issued the following statement on Saturday:

Dr. Hank Alexander Bersani Jr., resident of Monmouth, and professor of special education at Western Oregon University, died as result of injuries sustained in a traffic accident. The accident occurred today, Saturday, March 31, at about 11:20 a.m. Bersani had been riding his bicycle near Highway 99 north of Monmouth. Lt. Greg Hastings of the Oregon State Police said that Bersani was struck by a pickup truck while crossing Highway 99.

Bersani was a respected teacher, scholar and leader in the field of special education. He earned his bachelor’s degree at St. Michael’s College in Winooski, Vermont and then went on to earn both master’s and doctorate degrees from Syracuse University in New York.

Bersani joined Western Oregon University in 1999 after serving at Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) in the areas of public health and preventive medicine. He also provided training coordination for the OHSU in special education and rehabilitative counseling. Bersani had extensive experience elsewhere providing administrative, instructional or research services for Community Integration Associates, Arc of Oregon, Human Services Research Institute, Portland State University, Lewis & Clark College, Oregon Association for Retarded Citizens, National Institute on Disability & Rehabilitation Research, Syracuse University, the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation and other institutions affiliated with the research of the disabled.

His work about people with disabilities has been nationally recognized in books like “Public Health and Disability,” “Me and My A.T.: Students and their Assistive Technology,” “Speaking Up and Spelling it Out: Personal Essays on Alternative and Augmentative Communication,” and “Responding to the Challenge: Current Issues and International Development in Developmental Disabilities, Quality Assurance for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities” Bersani’s publication record is extensive and included scores of articles dating from 1980, before he completed his doctoral dissertation. He has spoken at international conferences in South Africa, Argentina, the United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland, Australia and throughout the United States.

Bersani taught a range of courses at Western Oregon University in the field of special education. He also shared his knowledge and expertise with the Forgotten People Foundation, an organization assisting special needs children and adults in Vietnam. In January of this year, Bersani participated in an international forum on disability issues in Doha, Qatar, and toured the Shafallah Center for Children with Special Needs.

Bersani was the recipient of many awards including the Mario and Alma Pastega Scholarship Award, the Multnomah County Arc Educator of the year award, the Rosemary F. Dybwad International Travel Fellowship Award, the Mary Switzer Distinguished Research Fellowship, the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, the Franklin Smith National Service Award, Association of Retarded Citizens U.S., Public Policy Leadership Fellowship, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation, Washington, DC., he was assigned to U.S. Senator John H. Chaffee and he was a Fellow in the American Association on Mental Retardation. Bersani was also past president of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

Bersani is survived by his wife, Lynda, of Monmouth, a son, Alex, and a daughter, Lisa, both of Portland. He was the son of Henry and Mathilda Bersani. Bersani was known for his love of bicycling, travel and, moreover, the love of his family and the interaction he had with his students. Services are pending.