Anna Senyk, a sociology professor who was one of the first women to teach at Farmingdale State College, has died after a long illness.
Senyk, who was born and reared in upstate Herkimer, died Saturday at her Farmingdale home. The cause of death was unclear. Friends were reluctant to give her age, but Senyk was believed to be in her 90s.
She joined the Farmingdale faculty in 1947, when the school was known as the Long Island Agricultural and Technical Institute. The school later became part of the state university system and changed its name several times before her retirement in 1986.
Senyk began her career when female professors still were rare. In a 1948 Farmingdale yearbook photo, she was surrounded by her colleagues in the social sciences department - all of them men.
She later became chair of the sociology and anthropology department, and after her retirement was a professor emeritus.
Agnes Hartmann, who was Senyk's secretary and one of her neighbors, called her a "brilliant woman" who had a special rapport with her students, especially nursing students.
"I often wished that she would have recorded some of her stories," Hartmann said. "She knew the [college's] history from when it first opened. . . . She knew sociology backwards and forwards - fantastic memory for names and people."
Senyk, who never married or had children, had no surviving relatives, Hartmann said. She had two sisters, Vera Senyk and Stella Hollick, and a brother, Walter, who predeceased her.
Another neighbor, Bob McDonald, called Senyk a "beautiful woman. A real lady. Very kind, very professional, very sweet. I'll say it: a dying breed."
McDonald, a manager of public safety at Hofstra University, said he cared for Senyk at her home the last few years. Senyk's house was filled with books, and the two swapped jokes and talked about U.S. presidents such as Franklin Roosevelt.
"It was my honor to take care of her," he said. "She never complained and she loved life."
A service will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in East Meadow, with burial in a cemetery in Herkimer.