News from university of Delaware

In Memoriam: Michael Ferrari

Campus community remembers long-time faculty member who specialized in brain-behavior relationships

Michael Ferrari, professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences (HDFS) of the University of Delaware College of Education and Human Development (CEHD), passed away Feb. 25, 2023. He was 66.

A member of the University faculty since 1982, he was interim chair of the department in 2001-02. Since 1985, he also served on the faculty of the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.

Michael Ferrari
Michael Ferrari

Dr. Ferrari specialized in brain-behavior relationships and the factors that influence brain development. His research broadly centered on studies of developmental processes in children and adults with particular emphasis on neurodevelopmental disabilities. He focused on differential brain development in boys and girls, models of psychiatric diagnosis and clinical application. 

In addition to publishing widely within the field, he was a licensed psychologist and served as a consultant to hospital-based programs and agencies in relation to neuropsychological, developmental and vocational concerns for people with brain injuries and neurodevelopmental disorders.

At UD, Dr. Ferrari taught courses in human development and family sciences, especially those related to ongoing adult development, health concerns and positive health practices, as well as courses in counseling and research methods.

A dedicated and caring professor, he was beloved by his students. In 2013, he received the college’s Excellence in Teaching Award, and his students regularly spoke about the value of his courses and his mentorship.

In a message to the college, Dean Gary T. Henry wrote, “Michael will truly be missed by both his students and colleagues in our college and across UD. We hold Michael’s family, his students and each other in our hearts during this very difficult time. We are incredibly fortunate and grateful to have had Michael as a colleague, teacher and mentor in our College. He will be missed, tremendously.”

Lynn Worden, associate professor in HDFS, said she “frequently heard students say how caring he was. He was that rare professor whom students loved even though he challenged them. Michael made them want to learn the content and skills so they could succeed in his courses. I was honored and privileged to have known Michael since 1983 (a year after he came to UD) as a teacher, mentor, colleague and friend.”

Bahira Trask, professor and chair of HDFS, said “Michael was the absolute kindest man possible — a wonderful, caring teacher and an excellent colleague. He loved working with young people and guiding them to find their personal paths in life.” 

In addition to the college’s Excellence in Teaching Award, he was the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including Professor of the Year (1985, College of Human Resources), Visiting Scientist in Psychiatry (1991-1993, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine) and Faculty Appreciation Award (2022, Sigma Kappa Honor Society).

Dr. Ferrari was a founder of First State School in the Wilmington Hospital, a school that provides children and adolescents who would otherwise be homebound with serious illnesses the chance to attend school with their peers while receiving the medical attention they need.

He was a member of the Christiana Care Medical and Dental Staff and provided neuropsychological/rehabilitation services to inpatients and outpatients at several locations throughout the state. He was particularly proud of his work with the Delaware Department of Vocational Rehabilitation.

A graduate of Stony Brook University of New York, he earned his master’s and doctoral degrees in psychology at Rutgers University. From 1979 through 1991, he completed multiple clinical and research fellowships, including at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science.

In his free time, Dr. Ferrari enjoyed gardening, taking pride in creating sauces and soups with his homegrown vegetables. He was also a football fan, always supporting his beloved New York Giants.

His family describes him as empathetic, caring and kind, the type of person who rooted for the underdog and cared deeply about helping others.

Dr. Ferrari is survived by his wife, Karen, his children Matthew Ferrari (Heather), Lauren Munyan (Christopher), Andrew Ferrari (Callie), Kendall Irving (Carl) and Christian Hoechst (Brianna), four brothers, eight grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.

CEHD will host an informal event at 7 p.m., Thursday, March 2, in Room 220 Alison Hall for students who would like to gather to share memories of Dr. Ferrari. A memorial event for college faculty and staff also will be held at the same location at 9 a.m., March 2.

A visitation will be held from 5-8 p.m., Friday, March 3, at Kuzo Funeral Home, 250 West State Street, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. A funeral service will be held at 10 a.m., Saturday, March 4, at Good News Church, 957 Old Lancaster Pike, Hockessin, Delaware. Interment will follow at Unionville Cemetery.

Donations in Dr. Ferrari’s memory may be made to CARE, Gift Center, P.O. Box 1870, Merrifield VA 22116-8070 or to Alzheimer’s Association Delaware Valley Chapter, 399 Market St., Suite 250, Philadelphia, PA 19106.

To read his complete obituary or leave online condolences, visit Kuzo and Foulk Funeral Homes.