AC loses first employee to COVID-19

Theresa Da Costa


Staff Reporter

Dr. Theresa Da Costa, 65, an Amarillo College English instructor, died Dec. 6, 2020, due to COVID-19. Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart notified the staff in an email.

“I am heartbroken to report that our friend and colleague, Theresa Da Costa, passed away today. She was fighting health concerns complicated by COVID. I will miss her friendship and partnership.”

Dr. Daniel Ferguson, the chair of the English department, said he first learned Da Costa had COVID on Nov. 23. Da Costa had been teaching three online English classes this semester, which another faculty member has taken over.

“Our goal is to work as much as we can to ensure student success,” Ferguson said.

Becky Easton, the dean of liberal arts, said that Da Costa had an amazing impact on AC and that she had an astonishing background.

“Dr. Da Costa made a huge positive difference at Amarillo College,” she said. “She was born in Uganda, went to high school in Italy, and came to the United States to become a translator for the United Nations. She was fluent in six languages. Then, she realized that her heart was in education.

Obviously, she was an expert in English, but English was not her first language. She knew firsthand what it’s like to be an immigrant and to create a fulfilling life for herself in the United States.

Her life experiences, along with her hard work and love of learning, made her a role model to students, especially those who were born outside the U.S. or who speak other languages at home.”

Dr. Daniel Ferguson, the chair of the English department, said that Da Costa was funny and always found a way to make him laugh.

“Dr. Da Costa liked to visit and had such a dry wit,” he said. “But she also had a goofy side. She would come to my classroom door and dance in the hall to try to distract me. She got me every time. She was so funny.”

Ferguson said that Da Costa was liked by her students and was a great professor.

“Many times, Dr. Da Costa had the same students for comp two that she had taught in compone,” he said. “That doesn’t always happen. It showed me that even though she was tough, the students liked her. I saw it as high praise for her as a professor.”

Lowery-Hart said that Da Costa was thoughtful and powerful and that she held him and AC to a high standard.

“Theresa had a sharp wit, a keen insight, a powerful personal story, and a deep love for students,” he said. “She had strong opinions about our college and the world. I always learned from our conversations. The most important thing I learned was how smart, thoughtful, and insightful Teresa was. She held me and us to the highest standard. Yet, she always held herself to an even higher standard as a colleague, educator, and person.”

Easton said that dealing with Da Costa’s death has been really hard for her, but serves as a reminder to follow the correct guidelines for this pandemic.

“I would be heartbroken if anyone in the AC family died, but Dr. Da Costa’s death hit me particularly hard because we have known each other for so long and enjoyed each other’s company,” Easton said.

“I miss her. On a less personal note, though, I hope that our loss serves as a reminder of how important it is to protect each other by following the guidelines of maintaining a social distance, wearing a mask on campus, and washing our hands often. Fortunately, most of our students, faculty, and staff are not at a high risk of dying, but if we are not vigilant, we may be inadvertently spreading this horrible disease to someone vulnerable. No one loves a mask, but wearing one and giving each other space isn’t too much to ask if it may save someone’s life.”

“Dr. Da Costa’s death should remind us all that we need to protect ourselves and each other,” Ferguson said. “She was afraid of the virus and she took all kinds of precautions. She took it seriously. It just brings the issue that much closer to home. It makes me worried about my own family.”

Ferguson said that even while being at the hospital dealing with COVID-19, Da Costa kept up with her work because she loved her job.

“Dr. Da Costa taught many students over her career, and that was her passion,” he said. “She loved teaching. One of her sons told me that she was in the ER the night she would be admitted, and there she was grading papers. That is dedication. That was Dr. Da Costa.”


  1. Dr. Costa was someone very special to the part staff who work in the writing lab and tutoring center. Her office was next to mine and we would have the greatest conversations. Whether part-time or student worker Dr. Da Costa reminded us of how valuable we all were to the English Department. Faculty would have their own holiday celebration and she would always be a part of ours and bring various Indian cuisine. She and I would compete on who made the better Samosas. She was so proud of her children and always showed pictures of her grandchildren. We often had lunch together whether we went out or ordered in. As a student, there were times that I wanted to give up and quit school but she wouldn’t let me and she was too sassy to argue with. We gave each other the most thoughtful gifts and always made each other laugh. My son still cherishes a blanket that she gave him for Christmas and she still has all the candy I gave her for Valentine’s day. Right now she would be walking around with her many bags and matching scarves, talking about getting ready for her trip to Canada where she often went for Christmas. She was my close friend and it’s hard to be in Ordway Hall and not see her there. She was very respected, admired, and loved by us and we will miss her dearly.

    • What a beautiful tribute, Alex! We will all miss Theresa and her wonderful warmth and wit. This has been a real shock for our department.

  2. Even though I heard the sad news several days ago, seeing this lovely tribute to Dr. Da Costa now makes her sudden passing all-too real and permanent. I shared the office suite with Theresa on the second floor of Ordway Hall, so I got to know her and her grandson Braylon over the years. She had a warm and mischievous sense of humor, as clearly evident in the photo above. She was also exceedingly generous and nurturing to those in her life. On numerous occasions she cooked, stored, wrapped, and transported large multi-course meals for me, and all because I’d mentioned in passing that I had had lousy takeout the night before. When I left Texas she regularly checked in to update me on her activities and doings, and to offer her support in my own. Writing out other such examples of Theresa’s kindness would exhaust the Ranger’s available MB’s.

    This is an immeasurable loss for the AC community and beyond. I offer my heartfelt condolences to her family and friends.

    Bryant Manning
    AC English Faculty (2011-1012, 2016-2018)

  3. I had Mrs. Jiwa (at that time) as my dual-credit English teacher in high school in Canyon in 2003-2004. I loved her, even though she was constantly threatening to throw me out the window. She would make me get up in front of the class to choose which window through which she was to throw me. Or, she would threaten to hit me with her cinder block. She kept this cracked cinder block on her desk and claimed she broke it with her own head, because she was a black belt in some form of martial arts. Lol! I miss her!
    Every one of her students could feel that she truly cared for them and worked hard for her part of their education.

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