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Posted 2023-01-16T18:31:00Z

The Mountains Were Calling…

And he had to go…

Dr. Eric Sullivan, age 47, passed away peacefully on January 13, 2023, after complications from a radioactive spider bite that led to a 21-month crime-fighting ‘adventure’ with a nefarious criminal named Glioblastoma.

Eric’s family knew him not as Spider-Man but as a kind, energetic, and mentally tough math professor, outdoor enthusiast, and a connoisseur of craft beers who always had the right shoes for every occasion (Chacos or running shoes because what more do you need).

Eric never waivered in his quests claiming “me do it myself” when he was a toddler. That is, unless he got hungry. Later proving that food was a strong motivator when he decided to run away from home only to return at lunchtime because he was (to no one's surprise) hungry. And he likely requested a grilled cheese – a longstanding favorite.  

His resilience and unwavering dedication to his goals led Eric on innumerable adventures, including summiting multiple 14ers (including Pike’s Peak less than a week after moving to Colorado), visiting all of the national parks in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and Montana (among many others), trekking Mt. Artesoniaju and Ishinca in Peru, walking on the Great Wall of China, and solo section hiking both the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) and the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). 

Eric’s time outdoors honed his sharp awareness and appreciation for the land. Something that likely spawned from his time chasing his older brother, Doug, through the backwoods of Virginia and Georgia, on their bikes. 

Eric graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in math education and taught high school math in Iowa. Eventually, he left with the best Iowa had to offer, his wife of 22 years, Johnanna. After settling in Colorado, Eric earned his M.S. in Applied Mathematics from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and later his Ph.D. at the University of Colorado, Denver, in Applied Mathematics. Eric joined the faculty at Carroll College in Helena, Montana in 2013.

In Eric’s typically modest fashion, he likely never realized the scale of the impact he had on the college. Not only did he serve as a great mentor to Carroll’s faculty, staff, and students, but his vision helped to grow the Student Undergraduate Research Festival (SURF) into its great success today. In addition, Eric developed Carroll’s Data Science program, which blends many of Eric’s interests, including mathematics, computer science, statistics, and business analytics.  

He did all this while producing countless publications and writing a textbook on Numerical Methods. This can supply anyone with light reading because Eric believed in open access to information and self-published his book on Amazon

And if we haven’t provided enough proof that Eric loved math, he also regularly participated in national and international ‘math shit.’ Likely meaning, to us, lay people, math development workshops, but if we’re honest, none of us knew what happened at those events or understood what he was talking about. But legend does say that he once blew the minds of several bartenders and waitresses by creating Mobius strips at a bar. 

And just to drive our point home, we can’t help but brag about Eric winning Carroll’s Outstanding Teacher Award in 2022. It solidified that Eric was kinda a big deal. 

Eric also fully embraced the outdoor lifestyle he found in Montana and immersed himself in all of it – fly fishing, kayaking, paddleboarding, backpacking, camping, rock climbing – you name it, he likely tried it.

And somehow, he also found time to be a math tutor to his siblings, a movie quote encyclopedia, and always the most genuine person at any party. 

Eric is survived by his wife, Johnanna; his faithful Labrador puppy Aspen; his parents, Donna and Drew of La Crosse, Wisconsin; brother Douglas (Wendy) of La Crosse, sister Emily (Jimmy) of Bend, Oregon; sister Julie (Brian) of Kansas City, Missouri; in-laws Clara and Dennis Day of Helena, Montana; brother-in-law Paul Day of Des Moines, Iowa; and many nieces and nephews who he loved dearly. He was preceded in death by his beloved dogs Moab, Jackson, and Shelby and by his grandparents. 

Cremation will occur at the family’s convenience, and his ashes will be kept until we’re all strong enough to hike into some remote part of the wilderness with him to spread them.

Everyone who remembers him is asked to celebrate Eric’s life in their own way. Raising a glass of your favorite IPA in his memory or getting outside to play would be quite appropriate. He would love nothing more than for everyone to fully embrace what they love in life, stop to appreciate nature, marvel at the sunrise, and experience the gift of sleeping under the stars.

A private family ‘Celebration of Life’ will be held in place of a service. A public remembrance service will be held at Carroll College, with details coming soon.

Instead of flowers, please consider a donation that will honor Eric’s legacy. His family is working to establish a legacy, and details will be shared soon.

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Comments (18)

  • Maria Rogne
    Maria Rogne

    Farewell Eric. What a wonderful man and I am glad to have known you. Blessings to all of you as you learn to navigate the journey of life without your beloved husband brother son and friend.

    2 months ago · Reply
  • Nancy Wright
    Nancy Wright

    I am so sorry to hear this. He was such a great person and made so many contributions to this life. We are blessed to have had him for a friend. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Nancy

    2 months ago · Reply
  • Jeanette M Fregulia
    Jeanette M Fregulia

    Go gently Eric - it is one of my greatest honors to have known you as a colleague and a friend. "Math is hard," and I can't help but feel it will be a little harder for all of us now that you have passed to a new adventure. Blessings to J- and all of your family. You are in my prayers.

    2 months ago · Reply
  • Terry Cox
    Terry Cox

    If I were to choose a single person that impacted my career path the most, it was most certainly Eric. Truly a great mentor, teacher, person, and friend. RIP and I know you are doing math and climbing mountains up above. Terry

    2 months ago · Reply
  • Diane Reinhart
    Diane Reinhart

    Our sincere condolences 🤍 Rob and Diane Reinhart

    2 months ago · Reply
  • Melissa Weege
    Melissa Weege

    Beautiful tribute, thank you for sharing. Thinking constantly of you all. How blessed he was to have such an amazing care team!

    2 months ago · Reply
  • Rita Livengood
    Rita Livengood

    A touching tribute, so very well said. I will serve grilled cheese tomorrow and toast Eric. He leaves the world a better place, like ripples in a pond, his legacy goes endlessly on. Our deepest sympathy, Chuck and Rita

    2 months ago · Reply
  • Gina Martin
    Gina Martin

    I am in tears, but also celebrating Eric's many accomplishments in his short life. Many people do not even do one of those, or take time to smell the roses. J, my heart is breaking for you and I can't even imagine what you are going through. You helped fight the brave battle and moved on with whatever Eric had in store for his next adventure. You guys were an example to everyone, the power of love, friendship and relationships. I do miss spending time with you and your family and am praying for all of you. Hugs. Gina Martin

    2 months ago · Reply
  • Scott Strain
    Scott Strain

    With every math lesson I teach, every hike I walk, every beer and glass of wine I drink... I will remember you, my friend. You were bigger than life, and an inspiration beyond words. I will miss you very, very much, my friend.

    2 months ago · Reply
  • Mary Jo Trotter
    Mary Jo Trotter

    What a lovely tribute. Prayers and condolences to all of his family, friends and colleagues. He certainly left his mark. All my best. Mary Jo Trotter

    2 months ago · Reply
  • Lynn Schreyer
    Lynn Schreyer

    Eric - we will miss your sense of humor, enthusiasm, adventure, and your kindness. To Johnanna and both of your families - you all have traveled a long, courageous road. I hope you can rest for a while.

    2 months ago · Reply
  • Marie Suthers
    Marie Suthers

    Watching you two taught me so much. About enjoying the natural world, making the most of the life we are given, and most importantly about love. Love Lives On, Marie

    2 months ago · Reply
  • Mike Nesbitt
    Mike Nesbitt

    I'm taken back to memories of debauchery with Eric and our other Lincoln Middle School crew. Pushing cars out of knee deep water on Cass (for tips), night time sneak outs, biking the Sparta-Elroy trail, and hiking the bluffs. Such a great and kind person and friend. Thinking about Eric a lot. Thank you so much for sharing a piece of the journey with us.

    2 months ago · Reply
  • Gillian Barnes
    Gillian Barnes

    The Barnes family in New Zealand send our love to you all at such a sad time.We remember him well when we joined you all for Julie and Brians wedding.What a remarkable man !! "you will never be the same as you were before this loss but are ever so much better for having had something so great to lose" Be comforted by your memories With heartfelt sympathy Gill John Fiona and Rebeccax Arohanui

    2 months ago · Reply
  • Kellen Miller
    Kellen Miller

    Massive loss for the Carroll community and academia outright. Dr. Sullivan inspired many and brought so much passion everything he taught. A great man and the best professor I ever had! I'll forever cherish the memories of us packing his office during office-hours (and the hours following, sometimes) to figure out solutions to all the challenges he'd bring to the table. A legend!

    2 months ago · Reply
  • Elizabeth Carlson
    Elizabeth Carlson

    Heartbroken. As one of his many students whose lives he impacted tremendously, I’m just glad I never shut up about how much he means to me. Without his guidance, knowledge, brilliance, connections, I wouldn’t be the person I am today, I wouldn’t have the career I have today. He literally helped make dreams I didn’t even know I had come true. You will inspire forever, Sullivan (because for some very strange reason I could never quite call you Eric). Miss you tons.

    2 months ago · Reply
  • Aaron Grant
    Aaron Grant

    I'm so very sorry to hear of Eric's passing. From the year that he moved to La Crosse to the year that we both left for college, he was a true friend to me, and I learned a great deal both from and with him. Having spent the day reading through the posts and comments on this journal, it's evident to me that Eric's good nature and sense of humor never wavered. I deeply regret losing touch with him after high school. My thoughts are with his family and friends.

    2 months ago · Reply
  • Henry w
    Henry w

    Dr. Sullivan taught me in calculus 1. I was terrible at math and I needed to get an A, so I went to his office hours constantly. Dr. Sullivan spent a great deal of time and energy explaining calculus to me and I eventually realized that he was one of those rare, strange, people who actually liked math. I started doing better in the course and at one point he actually accused me of cheating (which I was crushed by, since it was my dedication to his 1on1 tutoring that improved my grades). But even in that he was kind about it and never held it against me. Good guy, Eric. Hopefully now he knows I really didn’t cheat on that test 😂

    2 months ago · Reply