Beloved English professor Michael Shannon dies

Campus mourns death of companion, colleague


Denis Perez / The Advocate

English professor Michael Shanon Durr died in December after battling melanoma, a form of skin cancer.

By Anthony Kinney, Associate Editor

After bravely battling melanoma for 14 months, adjunct professor Michael Durr Shannon passed away in December in the loving embrace of his family and close friends.

He was treated by professionals at the Stanford Oncology Center and Hospital who tried everything they could to aid Shannon back to health.

Born in Murrysville, Pennsylvania, Shannon was a smart child who continually astounded his parents with his deep and broad intellect. After his family decided to move to California, he graduated from Amador Valley High School in Pleasanton.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in English from Cal State-East Bay in 2008. He worked in several professions, including a job as a research assistant at Weldon Owen Publishing and an assistant marketing coordinator for 2K Games, where he worked on video games such as “BioShock 2,” “Borderlands” and “NBA 2K11.”

However, his desire for progression pushed him to obtain his master’s degree in English composition from San Francisco State University in 2013.

Shannon discovered his passion in teaching and became an adjunct English professor here at Contra Costa College and San Francisco State University soon after graduation.

Possessing a remarkable versatility in his craft, Shannon taught an assortment of English courses on the college level from Composition and Reading to Critical Thinking and Advanced Composition.

Liberal Arts Division Dean Jason Berner said Shannon’s strong work ethic and enthusiasm about teaching made him a reliable addition to the department.

“Most adjunct professors just teach their classes and go home,” Berner said. “But Shannon always ensured he was visible on campus. He went far and beyond for his students.”

Shannon was also the part-time faculty representative in the United Faculty local teachers union. 

He earned the reputation on campus as a respectable, caring and approachable professor and although he struggled with the pernicious skin cancer for the last year, Shannon still found the spirit to stoke his passion for teaching English while undergoing chemotherapy.

Rarely seen without his NASA pin pierced stylishly on his jacket, Shannon was known for his cheerful personality and unfaltering desire to help his students and peers. 

Former student Lindsey De Leon said Shannon was always enthusiastic and passionate in the classroom, even after revealing his condition to his class.

“It was really tough when he told us, but I could tell he wasn’t letting it bother him because he kept his same personality and attitude,” she said. “You couldn’t even tell he was going through chemotherapy. He was never sad about it.”

Shannon was also an avid fan of the “Star Wars” franchise.

Described by his close friends as a Jedi, Shannon took pride in knowing everything about the Star Wars saga.

And when he wasn’t in the classroom teaching his favorite subject, Shannon was honing his skills as a Jedi Master at the Levy Dance Studio with the Bay Area Star Wars social club, The Golden Gate Knights.

Along with his fellow “Jedi,” Shannon would train Star Wars’ light saber sword play and practice sword dueling techniques.

De Leon said she’s going to miss Shannon’s outgoing personality and witty sense of humor in the classroom that made his lesson plans entertainingly captivating, and also his unwavering hunger for helping others.

English department Chairperson Joy Eichner-Lynch described Shannon as one of the nicest people she ever worked with. Reminiscing on Shannon, Eichner-Lynch couldn’t recall a moment where he didn’t show his peers the utmost respect and courtesy, even during disagreements.

“Michael was such a gentleman. The world was a better place with him here,” she said.

“He will be truly missed by all the staff and students who were lucky enough to experience his wonderfully contagious sense of humor and loving charm.”

Shannon’s parents are asking for those moved to remember him to do so by making a donation in his name to either the Stanford Cancer Institute or The Planetary Society.