Brock University is in mourning after the passing of Professor Zopito Marini, a beloved teacher and academic colleague who died suddenly while travelling overseas on Oct. 23, in his hometown of Montebello di Bertona, Italy. (See obituary.)
A prolific researcher who was so popular with students that The Student’s Guide to Canadian Universities listed him as one of Brock’s favourite professors, Marini won numerous awards for teaching excellence during his career. He was also a recognized international expert in sociocognitive development, writing and lecturing on such issues as family and school conflicts, bullying and victimization.
Marini, a developmental psychologist, received his PhD from the University of Toronto in 1984, and joined Brock the following year as an assistant professor in Child Studies. By 1993 he co-founded Brock’s renowned Department of Child and Youth Studies, serving as its inaugural Chair.
In 2010, Marini was awarded the 3M National Teaching Fellowship, given by the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education to recognize post-secondary teaching excellence. Other honours have included the Brock University Award for Distinguished Teaching, the Faculty of Social Sciences Award for Excellence in Teaching and the OCUFA (Ontario Confederation of Faculty Associations) Teaching Award.
A year ago, the Canadian Association for Educational Psychology presented Marini with the Robbie Case Memorial Award, recognizing excellence of work as evidenced by publication, exemplary practice and considerable influence on the profession.
In a 2010 interview with the Brock News, Marini didn’t hesitate when asked what he liked about his job. “I really like my students,” he said.
The news of his death hit hard with colleagues.
“A renowned international scholar, an award winning teacher, an engaged citizen of the community and the world and a warm and generous spirit,” said Ingrid Makus, Dean of the Faculty of Social Science. “Zopito exemplified the kind of person we can only strive to be. This is an irreplaceable loss for us at Brock and the wider community.”
Drew Dane, Associate Professor of Psychology, described a friend “who was there to listen. He was a wonderful mentor and role model, who guided me through my early days as a professor, and helped me to make tough decisions and get through difficult situations.”
“He will also be remembered for savouring and enjoying each moment and nuance of everything he did, especially eating a good meal, sipping a glass of wine (particularly Pinot Noir or Barolo!), watching a soccer match or working on a research paper.
“He never allowed the pressure or stress of the day’s events to detract from the joy that he took in sharing each moment with family, friends and colleagues, and in this respect, he has given us all a great example of how a life can be well lived.”
Tony Volk, Associate Professor in Child and Youth Studies, noted how the department has become one of the largest at the University, is seen as one of Brock’s top programs and produced a PhD program that cemented its international reputation.
“None of these achievements would have been possible without the leadership of Zopito Marini,” said Volk. “It is virtually impossible to overstate the positive impact he has had within our department and on our faculty, staff and an entire generation of CHYS students. Zopito’s passing marks the loss of a truly outstanding colleague and an even better human being.”
Longtime friend and retired Brock psychology professor David DiBattista, himself a former 3M Teaching Fellow, said Marini profoundly influenced the lives of thousands of Brock students.
“Many teachers are technically competent,” said DiBattista, “but only a rare handful inspire their students the way that Zopito did. He was transformative, helping his students not only to come to grips with complex information and ideas, but also to see the world in new ways.
“He also influenced his teaching colleagues, generously sharing his skills and expertise. Zopito’s brief statement of his teaching philosophy, an article entitled The Teacher as Sherpa Guide, greatly affected my own approach to teaching, and in my opinion is a must-read for all teachers.
“Zopito’s passing is a great loss to the teaching and learning community and to all of us who loved him as a friend.”
Marini is survived by his wife Helen, sons Michael (Adrianne) and Matthew (Tara), and his sister Anna Sablone (Carmen). A funeral mass will be held this Saturday Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. in St. Julia’s Church, 251 Glenridge Ave., St. Catharines.
In lieu of flowers, people can make a donation to the Zopito Marini Scholarship fund. Donate online at www.brocku.ca/donate or by phone at 905-688-5550 ext. 4190. Donations will also be collected in the Department of Child and Youth Studies; please see Lora Baliukas in Cairns 319. Cheques made out to “Brock University”, with “In memory of Zopito Marini” in the reference line, can be mailed to Development and Alumni Relations, Brock University, 1812 Sir Isaac Brock Way, St.Catharines, ON L2S 3A1.