Wednesday, July 7, 2010 | 2:25 p.m.
If Nevada State College President Fred Maryanski had a motto, it might have been “pay it forward.”
That’s why it was particularly fitting that two of the nurses who helped care for him in his final days were graduates of NSC, said Maryanski’s son David, speaking at a celebration of his father’s life today at the Henderson Convention Center.
Maryanski died Friday at the Nathan Adelson Hospice after a long battle with cancer. He would have been 64 on July 20.
More than 400 people turned out for the 90-minute tribute, with the presidents of Nevada’s seven other higher education institutions, as well as system Chancellor Dan Klaich, in attendance.
Maryanski took the helm of the fledgling NSC, the state’s only four-year public college, in 2005. Under his stewardship, NSC gained credibility and traction.
In his final months, Maryanski steered the institution through the final stages of its accreditation process, spearheaded and finalized the college’s 509-acre campus master plan, opened the college’s first permanent building on campus and managed the rapid growth of student enrollment.
He was remembered during the ceremony as a soft-spoken visionary who never missed an opportunity to advance NSC’s cause.
“Even during his darkest personal days, he never gave up the fight for his college,” said Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev. “His students are indebted to him for that battle.”
Through his leadership, NSC added critical programs that opened doors to many students, many of whom are the first in their families to pursue higher education, said state Senate Majority Leader Stephen Horsford, D-North Las Vegas.
“I hope they remember Fred when they pursue careers he made possible,” Horsford said. “As we deal with our challenges, we should all emulate the leadership he displayed.”
And then there was Maryanski’s sense of humor and dry wit, both frequently on display.
William Martin, a trustee of the Nevada State College Foundation, recalled receiving Maryanski’s basketball poll that ranked the chances of the various teams. Given Maryanski’s background in computer science, Martin wondered whether there was some complicated statistical analysis that had led to what he considered an unfairly low ranking for the University of Texas.
“He told me, ‘Bill, they’re just not very good,’” Martin recalled to laughter from the audience.
Maryanski was the definition a gentleman, said Regent Mark Alden.
“Student, professor, regent or governor – it didn’t matter,” Alden said. “Fred treated you all with the same unfailing courtesy.”
To his family, Maryanski was the quirky, loving dad who never missed a school concert or sporting event, and even coached his children’s youth soccer team for 10 years despite never having played the sport. His wife, Karen, who he met as a college student, “was the love of his life,” said son David Maryanski.
As teenagers, the children were sometimes embarrassed when their parents held hands in public “or danced like crazy people at weddings,” Maryanski said, as he struggled to hold back tears. As adults, he and his siblings now realize what a gift they had been given to have such a loving example to emulate.
The many letters, phone calls and e-mails from the community have been a source of comfort in recent days, Maryanski said. The family is also grateful to know that “all Nevada State College graduates will be a big part of our dad’s legacy,” Maryanski said.
Before assuming the helm of NSC, Fred Maryanski had served as interim provost at the University of Connecticut, where he had been a professor in the computer science program for more than 20 years. He also taught at Kansas State University. Maryanski earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Providence College, and received his master’s degree in computer science from Stevens Institute of Technology. His doctorate in computer science was from the University of Connecticut.
Maryanski is survived by his wife, Karen Maryanski; sons David Maryanski of Fayetteville, N.C., and Peter Maryanski of Enfield, Conn.; a daughter, Krista Maryanski, of Los Angeles; and three grandchildren.