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Professor Michael J. Buono dies of Legionnaire's disease, SDSU confirms

An undated photo of San Diego State University professor Michael J. Buono.
An undated photo of San Diego State University professor Michael J. Buono.

San Diego State University Tuesday confirmed the death of professor Michael J. Buono, who contracted Legionella pneumonia in February.

Buono, who was a faculty member in the School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences and a member of the SDSU community for more than 40 years, died Saturday.

He was the only person with a confirmed case of the illness — also known as Legionnaire's disease — on campus, which necessitated the closure of the Exercise and Nutritional Sciences building on Feb. 13.


Sophomore Alisa Ramirez's classes have been canceled for a month, but she said she understands the precaution given the circumstances.

"I hadn’t heard about the disease before this so I didn’t know how serious it was until I heard the news," she said. "I feel like it needs more attention than it has."

SDSU said the building will remain closed until the comprehensive testing is completed, which is expected next week.

Buono's family described him as "a wonderful husband, father, brother, son and friend who lived a life full of curiosity, eagerness, kindness, and who had a genuine desire to help all of those around him achieve their very best," according to a university statement.

Close colleagues and friends said Buono was "great at seeing the big picture and appreciating life," adding that he cared greatly about students and was recognized by many as "the best teacher I ever had."


Chike Omobi, a senior on campus, said he was saddened to hear the news.

"(It) seems like he was a professor that was loved by students," he said. "He has a great legacy here at SDSU. He’ll be greatly missed."

About his own teaching philosophy, Buono wrote: "As an educator, I value creative thinking almost as much as content mastery. I want students to value their own ability to think creatively, and I encourage them to use novel ways to demonstrate their knowledge."

"The world and our SDSU community won't be the same without Dr. Buono," read a joint statement from Provost Salvador Hector Ochoa, Vice President for Research and Innovation Hala Madanat and Professor and Director of the School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences Matthew T. Mahar. "Our hearts go out to his family, friends, colleagues and the many students whose lives he touched through his decades of teaching and mentorship."

Due to employee confidentiality, the university was previously unable to confirm the identity of the campus community member diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease.

SDSU leadership encouraged grieving campus community members to use support services, including counseling support for students at counseling and psychological services and confidential support for faculty and staff through the employee assistance program.

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