Professor Haggerty passes away at age 62

Andy Landolfi

Biochemistry Professor John Haggerty, 62, was outside reading a history book last Wednesday, a warm, sun-filled early spring day. A man, who made a career in studying, understanding and most importantly enjoying the natural world, passed away in the welcoming embrace of the outside world he loved so much.

[media-credit name=”Photo courtesy Nicolas Carrasco” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]Haggerty was known by his peers as an avid outdoorsmen. He traveled with his wife, Margie, to foreign countries to do nature excursions. Last year Haggerty and his wife traveled across Iceland on horseback and were planning a trip to Africa this summer.

“He and his wife were interested in all sorts of natural things,” Associate Professor of Chemistry Chairperson Carol Fenn said. “Almost every year they would plan a trip.”

Haggerty was also very passionate about birds and bird watching. He worked with the Great Gull Island Project for 20 years. The project involves monitoring and studying Common and Roseate Terns that nest on an island that is located at the eastern end of the Long Island Sound.

Haggerty was in the process of getting students involved in the project because of the benefits it could have on students. It taught environmental, biochemical and biological ideas in a more hands-on way.

As a professor, Haggerty will be remembered as being practical by relating whatever he was teaching to real life. Being a researcher for many years allowed him to use real life experience and bring what he learned from that research to students.

“He actually made it very interesting because he would relate class to medicine; even things in nature,” senior molecular cell biology major Rachel Dopart said.

Aside from making class more relevant, he was also known as being extremely caring about his students. He wanted success for every one of his students.

“He and his wife did not have children, but I think that in my perspective, and I’m just putting these words out there, that he enjoyed so much his teaching of students that he saw their potential almost like a parent would see it,” Fenn said.

Haggerty was also very involved in admitted student events. When asked what day he would like to work the admissions events, he would be very flexible, offering to work whatever day he was needed, Fenn said.
The day before Professor Haggerty passed away, there was a faculty department meeting, Fenn said. He was just acting in his usual upbeat way, Fenn recalled.

This is why his sudden death is what shocked faculty most.

“You know what’s the hardest is that it was so unexpected and sudden because we were working with him Wednesday, and Thursday he was gone,” Fenn said. “‘We’ve lost a good man,’ that’s what everyone’s been saying. We’ve lost a good man.”