Dr. John Orman, professor of politics at Fairfield University, dies at 60


Image: John OrmanJohn Orman, professor of politics and chair of the Department of Politics at Fairfield University, whose untimely death on Sunday evening has left the campus in mourning, was an insightful observer of politics who was often called upon by the media for his views on the presidency and national and local politics. He wrote several books on politics, including "Celebrity Politics," which gained national attention and was published in 2003 with Brown University Professor Darrell West. He said Americans have increasingly treated politicians like celebrities and attract the same kind of tabloid coverage. He said, "The preoccupation with the private lives of public officials does nothing to advance policy issues and is a distraction from the very real problems facing America." 

Fr. Jeffrey von Arx, S.J., president of Fairfield University, said Dr. Orman was one of Fairfield’s most beloved professors whose class rosters filled up quickly. "The suddenness of his passing is especially difficult to grasp because of the vibrancy with which he lived his life. He was a man of great intellectual curiosity who followed his interests with a passion. This is a tremendous loss to our community."

For those who knew Dr. Orman, he was a Renaissance man whose interests went far beyond politics. He wrote poems and songs, did standup comedy, entered rap contests, coached basketball and had played on the "Doctors of Dunk" faculty intramural team where he was famous for his execution of three-point shots.

Each year seemed to hold new challenges for him and this year was no exception. In February, he brought to the Pepsico stage at Fairfield University his play, "Helen Keller Speaks." The one-woman play covered the little known adult life of Helen Keller as a socialist, anti-war activist, feminist, and a founder of the American Civil Liberties Union. He said the play was an outgrowth of his teaching because so few people knew the true historical life of Helen Keller.

In April, Dr. Orman, traveled to Ukraine under a grant from the International Research and Exchange Board (IREX) to discuss President Obama and the 2008 Election. In addition to delivering a series of lectures, he did several media interviews, including with Radio Free Europe Ukraine and the Vatican radio station.

A member of the Fairfield University faculty since 1978, Dr. Orman was a former Teacher of the Year and was serving as chair of the Department of Politics. He urged his students to participate in politics and not simply be observers. He led by example, taking on the Democratic candidacy for U.S. Representative from the Fourth Congressional District in 1984 against the popular incumbent Republican Stewart McKinney, when no one else wanted to join the fray. He said he saw it as an opportunity to discuss national issues and represent a progressive constituency. After the election he welcomed Rep. McKinney to his classroom to meet with his students.

Dr. Orman was also a frequent critic of Senator Joseph Lieberman, and briefly ran against the Senator in 2005, before withdrawing and throwing his support to Ned Lamont.

He leaves behind his loving family, wife Reenie Demkiw and children Natalie, Katherine, a 2004 graduate of Fairfield University, and Nicholas.

Memorial Mass will be celebrated on campus at the Egan Chapel of St. Ignatius Loyola on Saturday, July 11, 2009 at 11 a.m.
There will be a reception following in Bellarmine Hall.

Mass celebration on Sunday, July 12, 2009 at 6 p.m.
Holy Protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church
457 Noble Avenue
Bridgeport, CT
(203) 384-9750

Fr. von Arx, president of Fairfield University, will celebrate the Homecoming & Family Weekend liturgy in memory of Dr. John Orman on Saturday, October 24 at 4:30 p.m.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on July 6, 2009

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