Sanford Edward Lopater

Sanford Edward Lopater passed away at Riverside Hospital on February 13, 2024, surrounded by family, after several months of illness.

Sandy, as he was known to friends and family, was born on December 2, 1947 (a birthday he shared with his mother) in South Chicago. He was the oldest of three children born to Harold “Jack” Lopater and Shirley Hyman Lopater. After graduating from New Trier High School, where he was nationally ranked in breaststroke, he went to Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where he was part of a MAC-winning medley relay team. He met Susan Holden in the first semester of their freshman year in the General Psychology class. She noticed early on that Sandy had a scorch mark on his shirt from trying to iron it. They began doing their laundry together and soon fell in love. After graduating, the couple moved to Charlottesville, where Sandy earned his PhD in psychology. Sandy and Susan were married in 1970 and moved to Newport News in 1973.

He spent his entire academic career at Christopher Newport College, later CNU, where he taught and mentored thousands of students. While he had a reputation for being a strict and challenging instructor, he also expected a lot from his students and instilled a deep interest in psychology in anyone willing to meet those expectations. He retired in 2015 as one of the most senior and respected faculty members at CNU. One legacy of Sandy’s years as a psychologist was a human sexuality textbook he co authored with Dr. Ruth Westheimer. Sandy was honored internationally and twice represented the university as a scholar in England. The Lopater family lived one year in Kingston upon Thames and another year in Cornwall. Sandy was also honored nationally and represented CNU with a National Endowment of the Humanities Fellowship at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in 1979.

Sandy is survived by his wife of more than 53 years, Susan; a brother, David; a sister, Lori; and three daughters: Emily (Brian), Erin (Dan), and Robye (Ryan). He was also the proud Papa to five grandchildren: Henry, Holden, Louisa, Eli, Gwen, and many nieces and nephews.

His family will miss his zany sense of humor and willingness to give advice. Sandy also leaves behind the SOD swimmers, who, along with their family members, have been friends for 60 years. They have loved and supported each other in good times and sad times.

A memorial at Peninsula Funeral Home is planned for March 10, 2:00-4:00. In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to the local food bank.


  1. Cathy Hyman

    Dear Susan and family,
    We are so very sorry to hear of Sandy’s passing. Although we didn’t get to see each other very often we always enjoyed the time we did get to spend together. The reminiscing and memories we shared as a family meant the world to us. Our thoughts, love and prayers are with all of you.
    Cathy Hyman and family

  2. Alice Callahan

    Susan, I was very saddened to read Sandy’s obituary. I didn’t know you are a member of the uUFP. I have been a member for 15 years but haven’t been active since COVID.
    I have many fond memories of my time at CNU as an adult student, a single working parent of 3. I graduated in December 1976 with a BS in psychology and went on to graduate school at William and Mary. I have fond memories of Sandy’s classes. As there was a group of students in my same category. we had a number of Saturday night Covered dish suppers at my house in Denbigh. I hope to get to the funeral home
    If not I hope we can reconnect at the fellowship. Namaste

  3. Christy Smith

    Dr Lopater was one of the most significant and influential professors I had at CNU. He was tough but so interesting! I took every class he offered. We also shared a bond in that we both expected babies at the same time. Thank you for sharing your husband, father and grandfather with us.

  4. Dennis Shaw

    I have had the pleasure to come to know Sandy and Susan through time spent together in travel, sharing of time and meals and, with Sandy, being involved in a writing group. Sandy always had a unique and interesting way to look at life and the human condition as well as a wonderful sense of humor. I will miss him.

  5. Randolph Phillips

    I was very sad to hear of Sandy’s passing. I first knew him from several Psychology courses I took from him at Christopher Newport College. I also worked under him for a year as his Statistics Lab instructor at CNC. Later, I was in a Men’s Writing Group with him.

    I knew him as a great academic, thinker, and mentor. He will be missed.

  6. Joe Healey

    Sandy was a great friend and colleague throughout my years at CNU. Unfortunately, he and I lost touch after I retired but I will never forget his jokes, wit, wisdom and stories. He was a very serious scholar but also a huge source of fun. Sadly, I will miss his memorial service on March 10 because of a prior commitment but I will keep Sandy and his wonderful family in my thoughts that day. Rest in peace, my friend.

  7. Debi Dowdy

    Dear Susan, Emily, Eric and Robbye,
    Eric and I are so sorry for your loss. Sandy was a great guy and Dad to Eric.
    Please feel you can reach me at any time if you need anything.
    Love to you at this difficult time.
    Debi and Eric

  8. Laura Davis

    Dear Susan, I was so saddened to learn of Sandy’s death. I so fondly remember those early days at CNC. Were we ever really that young?!). He was a truly special person and fell privileged to have been his friend…and yours.
    Laura Davis

  9. Minelle Paloff

    My classes with Dr. Lopater I will never forget. My first class in Psychology was such a disappointment. I was sitting on a bench looking sad, and Dr. Lopater asked me what was wrong. I told him I thought I would love Psychology, but I was so disappointed in my first class. He told me, ” Take my class.” I did and was so pleased with his lectures, etc. Everything was so organized. At the beginning of each class. he would review the previous class notes. I took every one of his classes I could and did well. I consider him an outstanding professor and feel privileged to have known him. I learned so much. May he rest in peace.

  10. Erica Reid

    Dear Susan, my most sincere condolences. Sandy mentored me during my time at CNU and I’m forever grateful for his guidance. He meant so much to me and I regret we weren’t in better contact. I owe him a great deal and hope he knew how much his influence played a role in my academic success and career in research ethics. He demonstrated his passion for ethics in every class and I carry the memory of his lessons in my work every day. I always will.
    Erica (Zappia) Reid

  11. Wendy Mynoymany

    Dr Lopater was one of my favorite professors at CNU, he had the best sense of humor, and frequently had a lot of laughing our heads off in class. I am so sorry to hear of his passing, may your wonderful memories bring you comfort.

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