In memory of Willard Umphrey


Courtesy of Kerry Keaney

(From left) Will Umphrey, Ken Roldan, Allison Sherman and Briana Reddish at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Willard Umphrey wasn’t just an exceptional member of Suffolk University’s radiation therapy program, but also a caring person who put helping others above all else. 

Umphrey had both passion for radiation therapy and empathy for the cancer patients he worked with, said Amanda Claes, an instructor and clinical coordinator at Suffolk. He was in his senior year at Suffolk when he died unexpectedly on March 17.  

“I will remember his enthusiasm and eagerness to learn, his incredibly positive attitude and mostly his concern for others,” Claes said. “Whenever I would have my one-on-one meetings with Will, he was always happy, chatty and excited to share what he had learned that week.” 

Umphrey was a transfer student who lived in Cambridge. Jessica Mak, the radiation science and therapy program director at Suffolk and Umphrey’s adviser, said he previously spent time living in Colorado, where he was training to be an EMT, firefighter and work in other emergency services. 

He later became a certified radiologic technologist and moved to Massachusetts to work in an urgent care facility. He planned on becoming a professional radiation therapist after graduating from Suffolk. 

“During his radiation therapy clinical rotations in the Boston and greater Boston area radiation oncology departments, he demonstrated empathy, as well as was warm and compassionate with patients, conversing with them and helping them to feel more comfortable during their radiation cancer treatments,” Mak said. “He truly cared about patients.” 

Umphrey was part of a small group of radiation therapy students at Suffolk. In a joint-statement sent to The Journal, these students said he excelled in hard areas of study and would take time to explain difficult physics problems with “an incredible amount of patience.” 

“Will was always kind to his peers in the classroom and brought an incredible amount of exuberance and intellect to every conversation we had…” the students said. “[He] was an integral member of our close-knit group and he will always be remembered as such.”

His classmates said he was also an avid animal lover. 

“His two cats would often pop up during our Zoom classes and it was evident how much he loved them,” they said. 

Umphrey brought a cheerful presence to his classes, his peers added. 

The same was also true in his interactions with professors. At the start of one-on-one meetings with Mak, she said he always asked her how she was doing. 

“During these sessions, he often shared that he had recently spent time with his mom. I remember when the weather was nice, he would always end the conversation by saying he hoped I would be able to get outside for some fresh air,” Mak said. “He cared about others and we will greatly miss him.”

News Editor Katelyn Norwood contributed to this report.