Students and staff at Snider High School are mourning the death of Bruce Crist, an English teacher and tennis coach, after he was found dead in his classroom over the weekend preparing for the start of the school year.
"The fact that he was in there on a Saturday before school starts, he was obviously a dedicated teacher," said Krista Stockman, a spokeswoman for Fort Wayne Community Schools. Today, the first day of school, "is probably going to be a tough one for some of the students and staff members."
Crist, 52, was working at the school Saturday, and when he did not return home that night, his wife became concerned and alerted authorities, said officer Jason Anthony, a city police spokesman.
A firefighter looking for Crist found him dead in his classroom at his computer.
The Allen County Coroner's Office ruled Monday that Crist died of natural causes and that no foul play is suspected. The office said the official cause of death will be determined after the pathologist's review, which is expected to take several weeks.
Crist was diagnosed with heart problems about 10 years ago, and since then, he had been taking aspirin to help his condition, Anthony said. Police did not release Crist's name, but school officials confirmed his identity.
"He was a wonderful man, wonderful teacher," Snider athletic director Russ Isaacs said. "Never heard anybody say anything negative about him ever."
Isaacs described Crist as a "consummate professional" who worked hard and was devoted to his students.
"He had a positive impact on everybody he encountered – kids or teachers," Isaacs said. "He made our lives better."
Over the years, Crist's tennis squads won several conference and sectional titles. He coached the boys team from 1996 to 2005, and the girls team from 2001 to 2008, according to the school's website. He resumed coaching the girls team this year, Isaacs said.
On Sunday, Twitter users, including current and former Snider students, posted dozens of messages in reaction to Crist's death describing his class as a memorable one and offering condolences to his wife and children.
"Thank you Bruce Crist for teaching me how to play tennis … You were supposed to be my teacher tomorrow," one student wrote.
"I literally joked with Mr. Crist every time I got the chance to see him. This is going to be hard," another message said.
Stockman said counselors will be made available to students and teachers today and in the coming days.