[Photo courtesy of www.sbu.edu.]
By Joe Pinter, Assistant News Editor, @jpinter93
ST. BONAVENTURE (May 30) – Countless St. Bonaventure University faculty, staff, alumni and students returned to campus days after commencement to remember and celebrate the life of their professor, colleague and friend who passed away on Friday, May 18.
Dr. John J. Watson, professor of marketing in the School of Business at St. Bonaventure University, died unexpectedly Friday, May 18. The cause of death is still not known. He was 45.
The son of John G. Watson, the late dean of the School of Business, and Suzanne Watson, a computer science professor, Watson was also a brother of Steve Watson, St. Bonaventure University athletics director.
The native of Franklinville, N.Y., Watson came to Bonaventure as a full-time professor in 2008.
After graduating from Archbishop Walsh High school, Watson attended Bucknell University where he played basketball while working on a master’s degree in business administration.
After college, he played professional basketball overseas in Ireland and England and then spent time in New Zealand owning and operating the Canterbury Rams. He decided to stay in New Zealand and became an associate professor in the department of marketing at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. He received the Best Teacher Award twice in 1997 and 2006, according to the university press release.
Watson did not simply teach in the classroom while at Canterbury; he founded the Business and Sport Management Society, chaired the International Student Exchange Committee and also served on the university’s MBA board of directors.
“This is obviously a terrible loss for his family, our students, his colleagues, our alumni and the generation of students who will not have him as a teacher,” said Michael Russell, professor of marketing. “His ‘can do attitude’ and optimism will be sorely missed.”
Students agreed with Russell.
“He was just a fun-loving individual who was not too serious (in a good way) about himself and others,” said Alexis Thomas, a junior sports management major. “Learning was always the most important aspect of his curriculum, but his methods were fun and inviting from the college perspective of a young person. He truly is someone who will be greatly missed.”
Watson was very involved in many different aspects of the university while at Bonaventure. He also commonly offered his assistance wherever it was needed.
“John spearheaded an effort to revitalize the honors program in the School of Business,” said Carol Fischer, interim dean of the School of Business. “And just last week had received approval to teach an honors section of Introduction to Marketing to our incoming Pacioli and honors students.”
In addition to that, Fischer also said Watson helped the School of Business achieve reaccreditation.
But what Watson was known for among his students and colleagues was how he taught “outside” of the classroom.
“John integrated service learning into his courses,” said Fischer. “Just this past spring, he gave his students an opportunity to prepare marketing plans for many businesses in the local community. Both the business owners and the students were very engaged in this activity, and John was in the process of sharing the students’ written marketing plans with these business people.”
Thomas had the opportunity of learning this from Watson.
“Dr. Watson was the type of professor who allowed students creative freedom when it related to our assignment projects,” said Thomas. “This allowed me to find my ‘niche’ in the sports industry and allowed me to have a more sound idea of what my interests were.”
Fans of the men’s and women’s basketball teams might also recognize Watson’s voice.
“John combined his love of sports with different teaching experiences,” said Fischer. “As the color commentator for the student-run broadcast of SBU basketball games, he worked side-by-side with students and modeled professionalism in broadcasting.”
His love of sports also brought him to be involved with the sports management minor that is offered in the School of Business.
Watson also worked with admissions and helped organize a Kan Jam tournament that brought almost 200 prospective high school students to campus this spring.
Fischer also spoke to Watson’s beliefs and how nothing was more important to him than his faith or family. He would lector alongside his son John (Buzz) at St. Bonaventure Church in Allegany.
“The quality that I most appreciated about John was his willingness to work on whatever initiatives were needed in the School of Business,” said Fischer. “I always knew I could count on him. In our last lengthy conversation just last week, I asked him if I could recommend to the incoming dean that John be given opportunities to assume a leadership role in the School. His response was the usual: ‘I’ll do whatever you need me to.’”
One thing Watson’s colleagues know for certain is that he truly enjoyed teaching at a university so close to home.
“SBU always was a special place to John,” said Fischer. “He often spoke of his love for the university. He grew up here, learned to love basketball here, and obviously had very strong family ties to the university.”