Richard J. Spath, 89
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PORTLAND -- Richard J. Spath, whose life was filled with learning, laughter and love, died Nov. 6 , 2012, in Portland from complications following heart surgery. Family members were at his side. He was 89.
Trained in classical languages and literature, he was a dedicated teacher, fine scholar and skilled administrator who enjoyed good books, good puns, good scotch and a good garden.
He was born on Jan. 30, 1923, to Charles and Gertrude Murphy Spath, and raised in a tight-knit Irish-Catholic neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio.
After graduating as valedictorian at St. Ignatius High School, World War II interrupted his college years and his shot at professional baseball (he was a slick-fielding shortstop).
He served in the Army Air Corps, flying supply missions from India to China over the Himalayas (the Hump).
After the war he resumed his education, completing it with a Ph.D. in classics from St. Louis University.
He began his teaching career at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio, first as an assistant and then as a full professor. He was an energetic and popular teacher and was soon named Dean of the Graduate school at John Carroll.
Although deeply committed to the humanities, he recognized the growing importance of science and technology. In fact, he enjoyed displaying the rare royalty check he got from a book he translated with two others: 'St. Thomas Aquinas' Commentary on Aristotle's Physics.' (It was not a best-seller).
In 1967 he moved his family to Maine when he was named the first lay President of St. Francis College, now the University of New England, in Biddeford. His first act was to make the school coeducational.
He was named President of the University of Maine at Fort Kent in 1971, where his commitment to excellence greatly expanded the university's programs, enrollment and reputation.
Upon retiring as President, in 1986, he was appointed the first University of Maine Professor and continued teaching for several more years. He touched thousands of lives in his long career as an educator.
He was a wonderful husband and father, and is survived by his beloved wife of 12 years, Gail, of North Conway, N.H., who he lovingly referred to as his Earth Angel; and his children, who were all proud to have him as their father: Michael and wife Susan of Saco, Susan and husband Tony of Berkley, Calif., Kristin and husband Tom of Concord, N.H., and Blaise of Auburn. He is also survived by his first wife Barbara of Scarborough; and two sisters, Patricia and Judi Spath of Cleveland. In addition to his parents, he was predeceased by his sisters, Rosemary and Kathleen, and brother Charles Jr.
A private celebration will be held at a later date. Arrangements are by Cote Funeral Home, Saco.
may be made to:
The Conway Area Humane Society
223 E. Main St.
Conway, New Hampshire
Richard J. Spath
Published in Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram on November 11, 2012