Dr. John Demidowicz, professor emeritus of Spanish, liked to play a little joke on the first day of class. He would let a golf ball slip out of his pocket and tell the students, in Spanish of course, that he was on the golf course when he remembered he had to teach. “You ruined a great game,” he would say.
Invariably, they would laugh, and that was just what he wanted. “A burst of laughter is like an unexpected quiz, “ he says. “It shows they understand.”
For Demidowicz, humor was the first of four ingredients essential in every class, followed by mastery of the subject matter, awakening students’ confidence and potential, and planting the seed of continuing with the language.
He believes the classroom is a two-way street. “You inspire the students, impart the knowledge, but they also have to inspire you,” he says. “Mutual respect is key.”
He earned his bachelor’s degree from Seton Hall University and a master’s from Middlebury College, where he studied abroad in Madrid. He earned a doctorate at University of Madrid followed by four years at the University of Paris.
Demidowicz joined the Oswego faculty in 1965 and taught for 32 years, retiring in 1997. And while the classroom was the center of his life, he served on a host of committees, including the departmental curriculum committee, where he developed Spanish 340-341, “Masterpieces of Spanish Literature.” A delegate to Faculty Assembly, he also served as chair of the Spanish department.
A highlight of his career was directing Oswego’s study-abroad program at Madrid, which he did for 10 summers. “It was a tremendous experience,” he says. “You saw the students in a whole different environment.”
Two unforgettable moments marked his teaching career. In April 1994, a group of students surprised him, presenting him with a plaque in appreciation of his teaching. Several years later, upon his retirement, a group would fete him at a party in the International Center, singing a song in Spanish. “It was a tender moment,” he says.
Retirement has allowed time to pursue his scholarly interests. In 2007 he presented a paper on the Spanish writer Conde de las Navas — the subject of his dissertation —
at the renowned Ateneo Library in Madrid. He was invited by the writer’s great-grandson. He also has published two articles in the literary journal, Isidora.
His pursuit of his passion for Spanish led to another important part of his life. He met his wife, Maria, in Madrid, and the two were married 50 years ago this year.
He cherishes his family, Maria and their son, Robert. The centerpiece of his life in retirement is their grandson, Eric, an avid golfer who spends his summers in Oswego with John and Maria.
The couple loves to travel and a highlight was a 2010 trip to Germany, Austria and Hungary, a cultural and religious pilgrimage which included the Passion Play at Oberammergau. They also travel to the Shaw Festival
at Niagara-on-the-Lake each summer.
Wherever their travels take them, they always return to Oswego and their home across the street from the college that was central to John’s career. “This was my life and it was a good life. There was laughter and tears, but I don’t regret anything,” he says.
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What a life! It has been my pleasure to know you.
When Grace told me you were on the cover of the Alumni magazine I was reminded of introducing you to Mike Stanley at the candlelight ceremony. I am also reminded of you in your academic regalia, I thought I was sitting with the Pope.
Watch where you are hitting those golf balls.