James E. Salisbury, a 1987 graduate of the Graduate School of Education (GSE), died Wednesday of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in Hong Kong. He was 52.
His death is one of over 100 fatalities and around 3,000 cases that have resulted from SARS, an atypical pneumonia that was first recognized by the World Health Organization in February.
Salisbury—the father of eight children and a devout Mormon—had been living and teaching English to college students in Shenzhen, China, at the time of his death.
He was diagnosed with pneumonia on March 31 in a hospital in Shenzhen and died en route to a Hong Kong hospital, according to his daughter Michelle.
While many of the victims of the disease have been elderly people or people with health problems, Michelle said her father was normally in good health.
Some health officials have criticized the Chinese government for not responding properly to the initial outbreak of SARS, but Michelle said she thought the Chinese government and doctors had been appropriately responsive.
“As near as we can tell they did everything for him that they could,” she said. “So we’re not critical of the Chinese government at all.”
Shenzhen is in Quangdong, the province in southeastern China where health officials believe the SARS outbreak began.
Michelle, the oldest of four children from Salisbury’s first marriage, said her father had not planned to leave China, even as the number of SARS cases rose and international travelers began avoiding the region.
“He was aware of what was going on there but he’s not the kind of person to lock himself up in the house and stop doing things because of the craziness that’s going on in the world,” Michelle said.
Salisbury lived in Shenzhen with his 6-year-old son, Mickey, who also contracted a mild case of SARS, according to Michelle.
He is in the custody of local officials from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS). He is under quarantine in a hospital in Hong Kong, but expected to recover, according to Michelle.
Salisbury was born and grew up in Twin Falls, Idaho. He served as a missionary for the LDS Church before attending from Brigham Young University and then the GSE in 1986 to get a masters in education.
Kerry Romesburg, the former president of Utah Valley State College (UVSC) where Salisbury taught before leaving for China, remembered him as a dedicated teacher.
Romesburg said Salisbury was so devoted to his students that he worked more hours than most full time professors, even though his position was only part time.