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Retired professor dies in crash, husband injured

by Richard Veilleux - May 29, 2007

Antonia Brancia (Maxon), a long-time professor in the Department of Communication Sciences, died May 13 after a car accident in Long Island.

Her husband and colleague, Sjef van den Berg, was badly injured in the crash.

“Toni was absolutely committed to advancing education and practice in pediatric audiology. She touched the lives of many children and their parents,” says James Watt, a communication sciences faculty member until his retirement in 1999 and a close friend of the two.

“She was also an excellent mentor of graduate students, many of whom are now prominent practitioners.

“What came across was her concern for their learning, and her demands that they become excellent in their clinical skills,” Watt adds.

“None of them ever resented her for this. Quite the opposite. She was one of the best-liked professors in the department. This regard extended to her colleagues. She was a genuinely nice person with whom it was pleasant to work.”

Brancia and van den Berg were on Long Island to attend their son Pieter’s graduation from C.W. Post when the accident occurred.

The two were waiting at a traffic light when another car ran into the rear of theirs at high speed, igniting a six-car collision.

Brancia was killed instantly, and van den Berg was rushed to the hospital in critical condition with multiple fractures and internal injuries.

His condition has since been upgraded, and he is expected to begin a lengthy rehabilitation process soon.

The driver of the other car was arrested and charged with criminally negligent homicide.

Brancia, 60, began working full-time at UConn in 1977, working through the ranks and being named a full professor in 1994.

She retired in August 2001 to devote her efforts to the New England Center for Hearing Rehabilitation, which she and a friend, Diane Brackett, founded in 1999.

“Toni was an excellent teacher and a gifted clinician,” says Carl Coelho, head of the Department of Communication Sciences.

"She was internationally renowned for her work in pediatric audiology and rehabilitation of infants and children with cochlear implants.”

“Sjef has always been an advocate for students and a warm, caring individual who continues to be an asset in the Communication Sciences Department,” he adds.

Brancia was considered a pioneer in the field of pediatric audiology, and was an expert in the field of cochlear implants.

She wrote dozens of books and journal articles, most on hearing impairments in children, many of them co-authored by Brackett, her business partner.

Van den Berg joined the communication sciences department in 1974, retiring in 2001.He is an expert in organizational and intercultural communication.

He authored or co-authored three books discussing effective research methods in the field of communication sciences.

A memorial service for Brancia will be scheduled at a later date.

Plans are also being made to develop a scholarship in her name. For more information about the scholarship, contact Art Sorrentino: asorrentino@foundation.uconn.edu

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