Rodolfo "Fito" Vidal-Gonzalez, an assistant professor at Villa Julie College who taught video production and editing classes, died May 25 at Maryland Shock Trauma Center from head injuries sustained two days earlier in an auto accident. The Cockeysville resident was 31.
"He was a natural-born teacher," said Chris Roberts, chairwoman of Villa Julie's department of film, video and theatre. Mr. Vidal-Gonzalez was hired last year from a pool of 60 applicants.
During a teaching interview on Villa Julie's Stevenson campus before Mr. Vidal-Gonzalez was hired, Mrs. Roberts said she watched him "for about five minutes, and I saw what he was able to do. He had the students in the palm of his hand. There wasn't one person in that room who was not paying attention to him, and they weren't even video majors."
Born and raised in Salamanca, Spain, Mr. Vidal-Gonzalez moved to the United States in 2000 when he joined the faculty of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He took the job at Villa Julie in August.
This fall, he had planned to teach a seminar on Walt Disney animation - a subject he knew thoroughly.
While working toward his doctorate in mass communication from Pontifical University of Salamanca, he wrote a two-volume dissertation on the propaganda of Disney characters during World War II.
Unable to afford language classes in Spain, he taught himself English by watching Disney movies, Mrs. Roberts said.
"His English was perfect," she added. " ... He even had the modern-day slang down. He was just very, very bright."
Mr. Vidal-Gonzalez also was fascinated by the emergence of the 17-year cicadas, friends and coworkers say. Friends and coworkers said he might have been driving home from an afternoon of enjoying the cicadas' drone at Loch Raven Reservoir on May 23, when he failed to stop at a flashing red light on Dulaney Valley Road at Jarrettsville Pike and was broadsided by another vehicle.
The collision occurred one day shy of the three-year anniversary of a car accident in Ohio that left Mr. Vidal-Gonzalez in a coma for three weeks, with doctors predicting he would never be able to speak again. That accident occurred after he was stung by a bee and lost control of his vehicle.
More than 250 faculty members, students and recent graduates attended a bilingual memorial service Thursday at Villa Julie. His parents, Nina and Rodolfo Vidal-Gonzalez, returned to Spain yesterday with their son's ashes and were planning a memorial service in his hometown.
In addition to his parents, Mr. Vidal-Gonzalez is survived by two younger brothers who live in Spain.