Campus mourns loss of professor

By on December 5, 2007

With a gentle personality and great wisdom, Professor of English Dr. Mark Johnston began his teaching career at Quinnipiac University in 1977. Thirty years later, the community is saying farewell to their beloved educator, who passed away from cancer on Nov. 27 at the age of 62.

“You must adjust to whatever happens and see the positive,” Johnston said in an interview during the Fall of 2006, in regards to the unpredictability of life. He addressed that even though times may become complicated, “life does not become impossible.”

This optimism was apparent in and out of the classroom, captivating the imaginations of thousands of students during his career. His outstanding performance as a professor was recognized when he received the “Outstanding Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching” twice in his career at Quinnipiac (2002 and 2004).

According to the Quinnipiac Web site, The Center for Excellence in Teaching award is given to any Quinnipiac faculty who is nominated by students, fellow faculty members, staff and alumni who feel that the individual exhibits “extraordinary ability to communicate knowledge to students or help them develop skills; extraordinary commitment to helping students learn…”

Dr. Johnston “was a wonderful man with a great sense of humor,” Senior political science and music major Alexandria Pudney said. Pudney participated in the Shakespeare study abroad class that Johnston conducted during the summer of 2006.

“Those three weeks were the best three weeks of my life,” Pudney said of the London trip.

“I’ll never forget the lasting impression [Professor Johnston] made, and whenever I think about Shakespeare, I’ll remember him,” Pudney said. Johnston and eight female Quinnipiac students, resided in the Bloomsbury district of London, where they held classes four days a week and toured the city, as well as Bath, Stratford-Upon-Avon and other sights.

Amanda Scaduto, now a Quinnipiac alumna, also participated in this class.

“I don’t think I realized how lucky I was to have Professor Johnston as a teacher until our three weeks in London. He really was a great professor, mentor and friend.”

The Dayton, Ohio, native Johnston spent 30 years as an English professor at Quinnipiac University. He last resided in New Haven.

His reputation as a great teacher was widespread among Quinnipiac students, including senior legal studies major Diane Giacomozzi.

“Professor Mark Johnston was an incredible man with an undying passion for literature and he clearly loved sharing his passion with others, so I decided to take his class because this reputation preceded him,” Giacomozzi said.

Faculty members also noted his reputation.

“Before meeting Mark, I clearly remember hearing the name Mark Johnston among students as a must-have Professor of English,” Part-time professor of English Dr. Glenda Pritchett said. “And of course, when I met him, I understood their enthusiasm. His kindness and gentle manner, his ever present humor, and his love of teaching made disciples of his students.”

Beyond the classroom, Johnston was an accomplished writer of poetry and short stories. More than 250 of his poems have been published, including his own collection “Out Into the End of Time,” as well as 10 short stories including “Dragon in the Photograph,” published in Knight Literary Journal.

Some students have found solace in the written words of Dr. Johnston. He had an unpublished collection titled “Broken Knowledge.” Will Karvouniaris, a junior English major, was touched by an excerpt from “Kammermusik.”

“He thanks me, and as he turns I see / Myself, thirty years from now, an aging / Lover of chamber music turning to thank / A younger man who helps me with my coat / Who follows me down the winding staircase, / Past the faded portraits in the foyer / Out into the gusting March weather, / Out into the end of time.”

Other students continue to be inspired by Dr. Johnston’s legacy.

“I expressed my feelings for him in a poem,” Senior English major Brittany Wadbrook said. She composed “For the Luckiest Few,” in which she wrote: “His soul exists much more wonderfully / Than any who has tried to stand beside him.”

Professor of English and close friend Robert Smart said, “I and all my colleagues feel his loss very acutely. Mark was so young, really, that it’s difficult to remember how long he taught at Quinnipiac, and how many students’ lives and careers he touched in those years.

“I loved Mark because he brought such joy and passion to his work and life; it was always easy to follow him there because his curiosity and love of learning were contagious. He was a very good friend; I will miss him greatly, as will many who have known him,” Smart said.

Johnston was born in Dayton, Ohio. He had degrees from Miami University (BA), Clark University (MA), and Yale University (Ph.D), leaves behind his wife, Quinnipiac employee Betsy Delaney, four children, and nine grandchildren.

A memorial service was held on Dec. 1. Plans for a memorial service to be held at Quinnipiac University were not available at press time. Memorial contributions in Johnston’s memory can be sent to the Chester Public Library, 21 West Main Street, Chester, CT 06412.


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