KSU Ashtabula's longtime dean John Mahan dies


ASHTABULA — John K. Mahan, former Dean of the Kent State University Ashtabula campus, died Sunday at home. He was 83.

Mahan began his long association with Ashtabula and Kent State University Ashtabula Campus in 1969, an association his family and friends say he was proud of all of his life. Moving swiftly through the ranks, from assistant director of administrative services (1969-72) to assistant dean (1972-85) and then dean from (1985-95).

“Dean Mahan was a scholar and a gentleman. He was respected and admired by the faculty,” said Susan Stocker, dean and administrative officer at KSU Ashtabula. “He was a master of the English language and enjoyed sharing his knowledge with students. Everyone enjoyed his quick wit and sense of humor. His presence in our community will be missed.”

Roger Craik, emeritus professor of English at KSU Ashtabula, said Mahan’s years at the helm there were “vibrant years” for the campus.

“The campus expanded, tenure-track faculty were hired, and new programs were added, most particularly involving distance learning,” Craik said. “John loved the campus and every day that he was there. He was committed to the belief that the campus should not only provide a university education, but that it should nourish and give to the community.”

Mahan was active in Growth Partnership for Ashtabula County, the Ashtabula Arts Center’s Folk Festival and the Ashtabula Area City School District. He welcomed the public to the KSU Ashtabula Campus through the very popular Summer Concert Series and by hosting countless lectures and presentations on campus. He received a “Best of the County Award” from Growth Partnership, and the President’s Medal from Kent State, the first to a regional campus retiree.

Mahan’s service to the community continued after his retirement from Kent — he served as coordinator of the Ashtabula River Partnership until 2002. The position was funded by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Craik and Mahan became good friends and Craik was with Mahan when he died.

“John hired me in 1991 and gave me the opportunity of this splendid life in America,” Craik said. “I shall always be grateful to him. He was a wonderful man and a very close friend.” 

State Rep. John Patterson, D-Jefferson, said Mahan touched the lives of thousands over the course of his many years at Kent.

“A consummate professional and quintessential university professor, scholar and administrator, he was a role model and standard for many, including this retired teacher,” Patterson said.

As Dean of KSU Ashtabula, Mahan was the heart of the Ashtabula Campus, although he would never have thought of himself as such, Craik said.

“He cared about everyone who worked there, and knew the names of all the campus employees, including the cleaning staff on the night shift,” he said. “Continually good-humored and well-mannered, he was always even-handed and professional, considering every matter on its own merits, and ignoring gossip, rumor and hearsay.”

Mahan relished bridge, time with his wife, family and friends. He enjoyed gardening and travel. He was an avid reader.

“Literature and philosophy enriched his character,” Craik said. “He was fond of quoting the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, who said that, ‘No man ever steps in the same river twice.’ He was not a man to advise, but when he did, it was to treat people well. This was advice he took himself, in a life magnificently lived.”

Born in Youngstown on July 22, 1936, John Kenneth Mahan graduated from Boardman High School, where he was the school’s star  quarterback, and then went on to attend Georgetown, Duquesne and Kent State, earning his bachelor’s, master’s and a doctorate degree.

From 1960-62 he served in the United States Air Force before a short stint of teaching English back at Boardman High School. He married his wife Nancy in 1966. 

John was preceded in death by his mother Isabel, his father Kenneth and his twin sister, Joan.

Survivors include his wife Nancy, his children Kevin, Sean, and O’Dea; eight grandchildren and his sister, Ellen Jayne. 

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