Dr. Marwan El Nasser
Dr. Marwan El Nasser, age 78, of Fredonia, N.Y., died unexpectedly in Brandon, Florida on Saturday, December 2, 2017.
While we are all feeling a tremendous space in our lives with the loss of Dr. Marwan El Nasser, it’s not hard to also feel his immense legacy. Dr. El Nasser represented a 20th-century explorer, endlessly searching for greater knowledge and greater opportunity for those under his tutelage.
Soon after his high school graduation in Amman, Jordan, he found himself on the road to the University of Alexandria in Egypt, where he studied and earned a Bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering in the late 1950s. He returned to Jordan for a short period, but soon his unquenchable thirst for learning brought him to the United States for the first time.
As an immigrant student, he initially struggled to find a home in Washington, D.C., in the early 1960s. Shortly thereafter, he transferred to Ohio State, where the polite and easy-going Mid-Western nature better suited his sensibilities. It was here that he thrived intellectually and met Joanne Gerber, who became his devoted wife of nearly 50 years.
In 1970, he left Ohio with a Ph.D. in Economics, a wife, and a newborn son. They moved to Fredonia, NY where Dr. El Nasser took on his first opportunity to educate as a professor in the Economics department at the State University of New York at Fredonia. It would have been hard to fathom at that time that this wasn’t only his first job, but it would also turn out to be his last.
He remained a professor in this same department for the next 47 years, until his death. It was here that he had the great privilege of molding the lives of so many students and further mentoring countless other young professors. His greatest pleasure, however, remained raising his three sons shoulder-to-shoulder with Joanne.
The theme that always drove him was that his sons would be afforded every opportunity in life that he lacked, growing up on the dusty streets of Amman, Jordan. This meant that participation in school events, the community, sports, music, and work was never optional. Life in Jordan in the ’40s and ’50s didn’t exactly prepare him well for the complications and intricacies of freshwater fishing, ice hockey, baseball, skiing and swimming. Although he never learned to do any of these activities himself, there was no way his children were going to miss out. This often resulted in “uniquely” outfitted athletes, who were at every practice, with their father present at every game, under all weather conditions. Oddly enough, he didn’t fully see the need for his own baseball glove when teaching his sons how to play catch. In fact, he would encourage them by showing the welts on his hand when they threw the ball particularly well.
At home, he found ways to seamlessly blend his Middle Eastern roots with American culture and society in a comfortable manner that made his sons feel both American and Arab, with zero sense that the two cultures were somehow incompatible. Professionally, he continued to seek and obtain greater knowledge and, in 1976, he led his family to Egypt for six months on a Fulbright Fellowship. In the process, he passed on his passion for travel to his sons.
He continued with several more trips in the 70s and 80s, escorting both students and educators to Egypt. He resumed his work abroad in the late ’90s. This time, his journeys took him to the newly opened Central Asian States. From 1998-2004, he established himself as one of the pioneers of Western education in the country of Uzbekistan. Eventually, he spent time with all three of his sons in Uzbekistan.
One went as a military advisor, the other two celebrated their weddings there.
In all of his work and travel he never stopped teaching and mentoring. A common refrain among his nieces and nephews as well as the friends of his sons remains: “I remember the time your father taught me to …” This, perhaps is the greatest legacy of a man who had so much to give. He has taught us so much. We will miss him dearly.
As final gift for us to remember him by, in recent years, he planted saplings, in place of large fallen trees in his yard that he certainly knew would never provide him much shade. And yet, these have now become visible symbols of the many enduring gifts to all. We certainly invite you to admire them anytime you are in the neighborhood.
He is survived by his wife of 49 years, Joanne; his sons, Farris in Boulder (Kim, Laith, Rami); Omar in Buffalo (Dilafruz, Zaid, Salman), and Alexander in Tampa (Layla); his sisters, Fatima and Fatheyeh; his brother, Adnan; as well as 36 nephews and nieces, and the thousands of students that he impacted over his 47 years as an educator.
In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts for Dr. El Nasser may be made to the Fredonia College Foundation, 272 Central Avenue, Fredonia, New York 14063.
The following schedule of services will be held
Wednesday, December 6:12:30 p.m. — Prayer begins at Jamestown Islamic Society (Masjid al Abrar)
1235 North Main St., Jamestown followed by procession to 134 Central Ave., Fredonia
2:30 p.m. — Prayer at 134 Central Ave. followed by procession to Cemetery
3:30 p.m. — Burial at Forest Hill Cemetery 55 Lambert Ave., Fredonia
4:30 p.m. — Gathering for family, friends, and the community at 134 Central Ave., Fredonia, where a light meal will be offered.
Online condolences may be made at larsontimkofuneralhome.com.
Arrangements by David J. Dengler, LARSON-TIMKO Funeral Home.