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St. Petersburg College mourns professor's shooting death

St. Petersburg College is mourning the loss of a beloved professor from Spring Hill who was shot and killed a little more than a week ago.

Her college community and her family plan to honor Maria Osterhoudt's memory at a funeral service on Saturday in Clearwater.

Her husband, 61-year-old Alan Osterhoudt Jr., who was arrested on a charge of second-degree murder, called 911 the night she died and confessed to shooting her, according to the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.

On the Tarpon Springs campus, they called her Professor O. Osterhoudt, 65, who had been teaching at SPC for 11 years, planned to retire in July. Her peers and students say she was a dedicated computer and Web design teacher, who went out of her way to be kind to others and whose talents extended well beyond the classroom.

"Professor Osterhoudt was one of the first people to welcome me and learn my name," math instructor Ourania Stephanides recalled last week.

She and others at the college talked about the impact Osterhoudt had on them and the legacy she left behind.

SPC is planning to establish a student achievement award and a scholarship in Osterhoudt's honor. The college also hopes to create a memorial garden for her since she loved gardening so much.

Osterhoudt worked with current and former students to revamp the campus website, and she mentored another student, Sylvia Whelan, who created a website for the college's Veterans Legacy project.

"She was very dedicated to her classes and very committed to helping the students," said Whelan, 40, who took several of Osterhoudt's Web design classes. "You could just tell she really loved what she did."

Whelan, who now works as an executive staff assistant for the college, said Osterhoudt made class fun and exciting.

Another former student, Sandra Kociolek, said she took several Web design classes from Osterhoudt at SPC's Clearwater campus and found her immensely supportive and encouraging.

"She's the reason I have my Web design degree and my job right now," said Kociolek, 37, who works for Kforce staffing firm, where she creates online learning programs.

Fellow teacher and good friend Sue Cornett said Osterhoudt was especially proficient in technology, attaining "the highest level of Microsoft certifications. But her talents went well beyond computer know-how.

"Maria was the most artistic and creative person I've ever known," said Cornett, a communications instructor.

Osterhoudt also was a painter, a jazz pianist and a devoted Christian whose favorite saying was "I've been truly blessed."

News of Osterhoudt's death also sent shock waves through the community at Mount Olive AME Church in Clearwater, said fellow church member, Joseph Smiley, who is dean of social and behavioral sciences at the college.

Smiley said Osterhoudt was supposed to lead a black history program at the church's Sunday service on Feb. 26, but was killed the night before.

Smiley said church members learned about her death hours after the service and were overwhelmed.

"She was a marvelous person," Smiley said. "This is one of those things you don't attempt to explain."

Lorri Helfand can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4155. Go to tampabay.com/letters to write a letter to the editor.

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Funeral information

Services for Maria Osterhoudt will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Mount Olive AME Church, 600 Jones St. in Clearwater. Arrangements are being handled by Creal Funeral Home, 1940 Seventh Ave. S, St. Petersburg.

St. Petersburg College mourns professor's shooting death 03/06/12 [Last modified: Monday, March 12, 2012 5:43pm]
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