“Make it a great day.” This was an expression that the Dean of the School of Education Kevin Basmadjian would often say, living life to the fullest and encouraging others to do the same even despite the challenges he endured.
Basmadjian died peacefully on Sunday, Oct. 23 due to illness at age 51, according to his obituary. Basmadjian is survived by his wife, Emily, and two children, Christian and Carly.
In June 2004, Basmadjian joined Quinnipiac University as an associate professor and director of the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program in the School of Education, according to MyQ. He was the university’s first faculty leadership fellow with the Office of Academic Affairs. Eventually in August 2012, he was appointed as interim dean for the School of Education, and in April 2014, he was appointed dean of the School of Education.
Professor in the School of Education and associate director of the MAT program, Mordechai Gordon was a close friend of Basmadjian’s family and says Basmadjian was one of the most supportive and optimistic people he’s ever worked with.
“He was humble, encouraging, always positive, willing to learn from others, but at the same time having a clear sense of what’s important, what we should be aiming for the school and for the university,” he said. “He knew how to get his point across without offending anyone, and he was a great advocate for the school. He helped us grow the school. He was always making decisions for the best interest of the students.”
Basmadjian’s family and friends celebrated his life during his funeral service on Oct. 29 at Spring Glen Church in Hamden, Connecticut.
A variety of speakers addressed a crowded assembly of family and friends about their experiences of knowing Basmadjian. There were also several musical tributes to him with the songs “That’s The Way That The World Goes Round,” “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “Hail to the Victors.”
In addition, there was an open worship when any member of the crowd could speak about their fond memories about Basmadjian, further acknowledging the great effect he had on everyone’s hearts.
In a statement delivered to the academic community, Executive Vice President and Provost Mark Thompson spoke about Basmadjian and his qualities of leadership and hard work.
“Kevin was an extraordinarily talented leader. He demonstrated a high level of commitment and compassion in his role as dean to the benefit of students, faculty and staff colleagues and the broader university,” Thompson said.
Basmadjian’s memory will also linger with students as well, including senior sociology major Luciana Fohsz. She says Basmadjian encouraged her to attend the university and study in the MAT program for elementary education.
“He is one of the main reasons why I am at Quinnipiac University after hearing him speak so highly of the MAT program,” she said in a statement.
Fohsz said thanks to Basmadjian, she will be able to complete the MAT program in three years when normally, the program takes four years to accomplish.
“Without him, I would not have realized my true potential,” she said. “Through our several encounters, he taught me and showed me just how incredible the teaching profession is.”
Junior psychology major Lauren Birdsall said she had Basmadjian as a professor during her freshman year and recalls how he was always very happy and genuine towards his students.
“As a member of the Quinnipiac Future Teachers Organization [QFTO], he has always asked what he could do to help us out and would follow through, on top of all of his other responsibilities,” Birdsall said. “The experience with Dean Basmadjian was mostly in the classroom, and he was extremely passionate about the material he taught us. Him being pas sionate about what he does as well as being so generous is something I will always remember.”
Associate Dean of the School of Education Beth Larkins-Strathy said Basmadjian was her dean, colleague and friend who was a true visionary and leader.
“Kevin was one of the most positive and upbeat human beings I have ever met,” Larkins-Strathy said. “He created an incredibly positive work environment in the School of Education with his good cheer and humor and his belief and trust in his faculty and staff.”
Larkins-Strathy said that during the summer, Basmadjian involved the faculty in a fun, bonding experience.
“Being the visionary he was, he knew that soon he would have to leave us, so he did something very special. He created a faculty retreat in late August that was a bit different than the typical retreats that schools have,” she said. “The Strategic School Plan and branding were on the agenda, but the true purpose was to create an incredibly strong bond between all of us so we could carry his spirit and positivity when he was gone.”
During the retreat, there were team building games that brought the faculty closer together.
The activities they played included tossing a beach ball around and answering pre-planned questions like, “If you could have dinner with anyone, who would that be?” and then the group would determine whether the answers were true or false.
Another activity involved having the faculty work in teams and receive a bag of miscellaneous items like a balloon and huge sunglasses, and the task was to create a skit using the items, according to Larkins-Strathy.
They weren’t normal activities for a retreat, but Larkins-Strathy said that it brought the faculty closer than ever before.
“Kevin knew it was just what we needed. It brought us even closer than we were already,” she said. “And now we are without Kevin, but his spirit and the love and laughter he left behind will guide us and help us to fulfill the dreams and plans he had for our school and our students. His love, laughter and caring will always be a part of us.”