Remembering Joseph Leahy: His legacy in the classroom

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Longtime UAH professor Joseph Leahy died Sunday of a heart attack. He was 58 years old.

Leahy was one of the faculty members inside the room where Amy Bishop Anderson opened fire, killing three people. Remarkably, despite being shot in the head, Leahy was one of three who made it out alive.

While his name will always be connected to what happened on February 12, 2010, he will be forever remembered for the impact he had on students each and every day in the classroom.

“He was always positive,” says Kailyn Murphree, a senior in the School of Nursing at UAH.

Kailyn will walk the line at graduation in a few weeks. As she's reflecting back on her time as a Charger, she says she remembers her time fondly, in Dr. Leahy's class.

“He was just a funny man and because of that we would be engaged in the classroom," she says.

That says a lot, considering what Leahy taught.

“I honestly don’t much about Microbiology but he made me care," says Murphree.

She says, he told students day one, he cares about their success - and unlike some - he proved it with every assignment.

“If we performed poorly he did everything he could to bring our grade back up," she says.

Kailyn says she didn't know Leahy survived the Shelby Center shooting when she picked the course, and the only time he mentioned it was a day the entire class scored well on a test.

"He said he had the chance to leave teaching but he told us those were the moments that reminded him why he stayed so it just, made us feel really good about it," says Murphree.

Leahy returned to the classroom just one semester after the shooting. The reason why he returned is probably best said by Leahy himself, during a press conference following the Amy Bishop Anderson trial.

“I’m feeling blessed to be alive and still walking the Earth," Leahy told reporters.

Leahy didn't just walk, he educated and inspired the next generation of nurses and scientists, fitting in life lessons in between the biology.

“No matter what happens there’s always something to be happy about, there’s always something to be thankful for," says Murphree.

While he'll always be connected to that dark day in 2010, his impact is best personified by students like Kailyn.

“He’s was always making jokes, he made class fun," she says.

A wake and memorial service for Joseph Leahy will be held Tuesday at 6 pm at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church on Hughes Road in Madison.

A funeral mass will follow Wednesday, at 11 am.