John Joseph Duffy, 83, promoted higher education in South Carolina regardless of limitations

John Joseph Duffy

John Joseph Duffy

John Joseph Duffy, of Columbia, died Sept. 1, 2014, at home surrounded by his family. He was 83.

John, widower of Marcia Tinkham Duffy, was a devoted husband and father, a gifted administrator, a passionate historian, and, especially, a teacher.

John was born and raised in Charleston, graduated Bishop England High School in 1948, attended Fordham University and the College of Charleston (bachelor’s in history, 1952). After serving in the U.S. Army in Germany from 1954 to 1956, he returned to graduate school at the University of South Carolina (Ph.D. in history, 1963).

He was named the first resident director of the Beaufort campus of the University of South Carolina in 1959, the same year he married his beautiful wife. He also taught history and political science at the campus. In 1966 he was called to Columbia to assist with the growth of the regional campus system.

In 1977 he became system vice president for university campuses and continuing education (later chancellor, later vice provost and executive dean), a position that allowed him to promote his ideal of higher education that would be available to all the people of South Carolina, regardless of age, geographical or economic limitations. He attended virtually every graduation ceremony at all of the campuses and took great joy in shaking the hand of each graduate. He took particular joy in seeing inmates at the prisons receive college degrees.

In 1994 he was named interim dean for applied professional sciences and he held both positions until his retirement in 1998. He received numerous professional distinctions, including Beaufort’s Young Man of the Year in 1965, the USC Educational Foundation Distinguished Service Award for 1989 and the Black Faculty and Staff Association Affirmative Action Award for 1993 to 1994. .

He served as president of Phi Beta Kappa, the Southern Historical Association, the South Carolina Historical Association and the Carolinian Society. He was one of the founders of the National Conference of Regional and Branch Campus Administrators. He published articles on South Carolina history and was a nationally recognized expert in distance education. He traveled extensively as a consultant for higher education accreditation organizations.

He particularly enjoyed compiling oral interviews for the South Carolinian Library, including ones of senators John Martin, Ed Saleeby and Jim Waddell.

In addition to his numerous administrative duties, he also taught United States history at USC, sharing his love for Woodrow Wilson, the Roosevelts and all progressive policy makers.

He loved to share his knowledge with others. If anyone asked him a question about history, they could count on a 50-minute answer. Professor Duffy was likely to hand them a hefty book to take home for additional reading as well. He often stated, “You don’t have to know everything, you just have to know where to look it up.”

Dr. Duffy had the uncommon ability to read dusty tomes on any subject while the television blared and his young children argued loudly in the same room. John and Marcia made their longtime home on Harden Street near Five Points a place where everyone was welcome. People of all ages, opinions and social status entered the home through the unlocked door where they were guaranteed a drink and a lively civil discussion on varied topics.

He loved to travel. He made an extended educational trip to Eastern Europe and Siberia in the early 1970s and he traveled with his wife to France, England, Prince Edward Island and California. He traveled to Spain, Ireland, Cuba, Ecuador, Colombia, Japan, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia. Any questions about his trip usually involved a description of the food eaten, as well as the history he had learned.

John was generous with his time, expertise, and resources. He liberally supported the University of South Carolina, the Democratic Party and its candidates. He enjoyed watching Jeopardy and continued to correctly answer the most obscure questions shortly before his death.

Dr. Duffy, aka John, Dr. D, Dad, Daddy, Poppy, Johnny, Dean, Professor, Chancellor and Emperor, leaves behind a wealth of friends, students, former employees and relatives who shared a mutual love and admiration. There are thousands of graduates who would never have received an advanced degree if it were not for him.

The family would like to thank all of the friends who visited, wrote, and called during his illness, as well as Dr. Charles Butler and his staff at SC Oncology Associates. Palmetto Health Hospice also provided excellent in-home support, along with nurse friends, Roslyn Clark, Cameron Mitchum and Katy Thomas.

In addition to his wife, he was preceded in death by his parents, John Joseph Duffy, II and Mary Magdalene McMahon Duffy; brothers, Monsignor Thomas R. Duffy and Jeremiah B. Duffy; brothers-in-law, William R. Mitchum and Cecil Creech; and a sister-in-law, Eleanor (Ellie) Tinkham Creech.

He is survived by his daughters, Katharine Duffy Thomas (Robert J., Jr.) and Eleanor Duffy Cleary (Vivian”Paul”); son, John J. Duffy, IV (William F. Edmiston); grandchildren, Robert J. Thomas (Katy), Joseph D. Thomas, Mark A. Thomas and Roslyn M. Cleary; and great-grandchildren, Gabriel, Brendon and Daniel Thomas, all of Columbia. He is also survived by sisters, Ann Duffy Mitchum, of Charleston and Patricia Duffy DiBiase (Gene Frederick), of Jacksonville, Fla.; sister-in-law, Barbara McCarthy Duffy, of Valparaiso, Fla.; brother-in-law, A. D. Tinkham, of Key West, Fla.; and numerous beloved nieces, nephews and cousins.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday , Sept. 6, 2014, at Leevy’s Funeral Home, Taylor Street Chapel. Casual Gamecock attire is considered to be in good taste.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the John J. Duffy Endowment Fund for Teaching Excellence, a University of South Carolina regional campus award for outstanding teaching.

Memorials may be addressed to The USC Educational Foundation, Account #1A1352, 1600 Hampton St., University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208.

Please leave online condolences for the family at Leevy’s Funeral Home.

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