Wednesday, March 9, 2011

George Graziano, Jesuit Professor of English

Fr. George Graziano, S.J.
I have to apologize for reporting the death of another Sophia University Professor, Fr. George Graziano, S.J., who passed away around 7:30 P.M. today (Ash Wednesday, March 9, 2011).

I don't think George was ever hospitalized during his long life except for the final three months. His hospitalization, towards the end of last year, proved to be not only the first, but also the last. When he reluctantly left for a checkup, he was looking forward to returning within a short time, but his situation deteriorated gradually and turned critical after a couple of falls in January.

George was born on February 2, 1930, entered the New York Province of the Society of Jesus on August 14, 1947, and was ordained a priest on June 20, 1959. He had been in Japan since 1955, mostly teaching English at Sophia University until his retirement around 2000.

With a degree in Applied Linguistics, George taught mostly oral English, presentation skills, and writing. George was a pioneer in introducing media-based English courses at Sophia, and, according to various accounts, he even had a bus with audio-visual gadgets in the 1960s and 70s. Although he belonged to the Department of English, for many years he taught in the Faculty of Law, grooming many generations of youngsters. He was a dedicated and committed teacher, willingly giving his time to students, helping them improve their oral and written English. His office door was always open, and there were always students there, often learning English while watching a movie or a Columbo episode. He kept in touch with students even after their graduation, and he officiated at the marriage of many of them.

George was much interested in audio-visual machines and computers. He had a substantial collection of audio and video tapes for teaching English, some of which he himself edited or compiled. His favorite teaching tool was the Columbo TV series, many episodes of which he knew almost by heart. He was one of the earliest users of a computer at Sophia, especially from a non-Science Faculty, going back to the days of punch cards. After the arrival of PCs, he used almost every version of Windows until Windows Vista. He was competent in handling the programming language BASIC and wrote several programs for use in class. In fact, after his retirement from Sophia, he volunteered to work in Myanmar, and there too he employed his personally developed CALL system, which consisted of a set of lessons with Columbo episodes and custom-made dialogs and questions, all controled by his own software program.

George had the knack of attracting people and was often surrounded by former students who came from different walks of life. One of the reasons for his popularity might have been his membership in a yachting club, to which he belonged for many years. Almost every year, he attended numerous functions associated with the club and was regular in giving opening or closing speeches. He was also a 'socialite' being very generous in treating friends, sometimes even cooking for them. George was a very talented cook and had very clear notions about the quality of food and the manner of serving and eating. Perhaps he came from a family of restaurateurs, educated since a very young age in food vocabulary and food criticism. He often made bread, pizza, and other dishes in his office and ate with others.

George was a memorable character. Perhaps no student is likely to forget George's sonorous voice and impressive appearance. Most notable were his hair, which he laboriously wound around to cover his bald pate, and his pants, all of which were ultra-tight. Of course, he was always dandy, paying close attention to the colors of his clothes, the design of his tie, and the choice of his jacket. Perhaps more than his voice and appearance, what made him memorable was his vocation-inspired sociability and generosity, as he always strove to be available and generous to others. R. I. P.

Funeral Details:
April 9, 2011 (Sat), 10:00 AM: There will be a Memorial Mass for Fr. Graziano at St. Ignatius Church, Yotsuya, Tokyo.

Wake and Funeral were canceled due to the calamitous Great Quake of March 11.

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