Few members of the St. Joseph’s College community have been as universally beloved as Richard Paganini. An assistant professor of communication studies, Paganini passed away at his home in Chicago on April 1. He was 84 years old.
So great was his devotion to SJC that he would commute to the Long Island Campus from Chicago every week to teach his classes. Paganini earned the respect and admiration of his students throughout his 31 years of service to the College. At an April 26 memorial service on the Long Island Campus, students, colleagues and alumni remembered him as a warm, caring and humble educator who never hesitated to share deep life lessons with those who considered him a dear friend.
Two of those who spoke about the profound effect Professor Paganini had on their lives have shared their reflections below.
Allison Wood ’15, Child Study/Communication Studies
Professor Paganini not only taught his students academics; he taught us life lessons. Quite simply, he showed us how to be better human beings. We’ve lost a gentle soul.
He would laugh if he heard me refer to him as a hero, but that’s just what he was. Think about it — he seemed to fear nothing. Conforming and following what everyone was doing around him was not his style. He was on a mission to teach us more than just what you can read in a textbook. He openly spoke about the love for his family and was unafraid to shed a tear. His dedication to teaching inspired him to get on a plane from Chicago every week. He was truthful and encouraged us to celebrate our strengths. He was unassuming and did what most wouldn’t like dance and sing in front of his students.
The last speech Professor Paganini assigned my class this semester was to deliver a heartfelt farewell. How ironic! As graduation was growing nearer, I contemplated composing one to him, expressing how sad I would be to say goodbye to a man who taught me there is nothing I can’t do. I regret the day I chose to write about another topic. I am honored to have been offered this second chance today. I can think of no better way to pay tribute to the best professor I could have ever hoped to have had than to stand together with you to profess our love and respect for an amazing individual.
Peter Pan is about a boy who refuses to grow old. Although Professor Paganini was 84 years old, his spirit stayed young. Another valuable lesson he taught us was … if you lead a good life with no regrets, you can remain young forever. The author of Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie said, “Never say goodbye because saying goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting.”
Pags, I will never say goodbye because I will never forget you. I will simply say thank you for teaching each of us that we all have the power to make a difference in the world, and farewell until we meet again.
Paige Napoli Carbone ’02, Director of Alumni Engagement
I loved and adored Mr. Paganini. The news of his death has left me with special thoughts about what a wonderful man he was and how very lucky I was to have had him as a professor, mentor and friend.
As a young girl entering the second semester of my freshman year back in the spring of 1999, I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Paganini — or as we all affectionately refer to him as “Pags” — in a small group discussion here at SJC during a Meet the Majors session. Coming to SJC, I thought I knew that I wanted to major in child study and become a teacher — that was until I took the first few classes and realized a teacher I was not. So, I met Pags and some other upperclassmen from the speech communication department.
One of the first questions asked by another student was, “So, what can I do with a major in communications?”
His response: “Anything you want!”
Classic Pags. He had such a way with words that he could use few of them, and still they were the most inspiring thing you had ever heard. He made you feel good about yourself.
When he told us in class that he flew back and forth from Long Island to Chicago to teach a few classes at SJC, none of us believed him! We all soon realized that he was the coolest human being ever! He was deeply committed, dedicated, and an amazing educator.
I got to know him well, having taken every class he taught at SJC, and continuing our friendship after my days as a student ended. As a young professional working at the College, I was lucky to have the opportunity to visit him often in his small office off the beaten path and bring him a cup of coffee. He thanked me for the coffee by filling me with moving words, words that made me think and feel and be full of emotion.
We had lunch together at the Harbor Crab a few months ago and had a great talk over she-crab soup. After, we shared a chocolate dessert because according to Pags, “you gotta have something sweet after a good meal.”
He was simply the best! I will miss him very much.