A Life of Inspiration: Cumberland College Professor John Adair Dies at 79

Last Edited:

Students, faculty and staff mourn loss of beloved Cumberland County College Professor John Adair.

StudJohn Adair ents, faculty and staff at Cumberland County College (CCC) are mourning the sudden death of a well-loved and highly respected professor.

John Adair, associate professor of English, who recently celebrated his 50th year teaching at CCC, passed away unexpectedly on Thursday, January 11, in Vineland.  

Adair, 79, was a remarkably accomplished individual who attended many schools and colleges, and received numerous educational awards throughout his lifetime. 

According to his CCC biography, he graduated as salutatorian from Greely Institute in Cumberland, Maine, in 1956. Showing his love for the concept of human equality, his graduation speech was on “the need to expunge racial segregation from American society.”

Adair was also one of only six students in the United States to receive an AMVETS scholarship. This award afforded him the opportunity to travel to Washington, DC, where he and the other students got the chance to be on a television show with none other than Richard Nixon, who was vice president at the time.

Throughout his years as professor at the college — he started in 1967 — he built a wonderful rapport with his colleagues and his students. 

I thought he was absolutely brilliant. He had the intelligence and desire to study literature in depth.

“I loved Mr. Adair,” said Ellen Reece, librarian at CCC. “He was whip-smart, extraordinarily well-read, and had a tremendously quick wit. However, his virtues extended beyond his intellect; he was also a warm and funny man who gave 50 years to the college and the county as a whole.”

“I thought he was absolutely brilliant,” said Patti Schmid, head librarian at CCC. “He had the intelligence and desire to study literature in depth.”

Adair’s insatiable appetite for learning led him to enroll in seminars at several of the most prestigious universities in the world.

“He studied at Oxford University and Cambridge University [among others] every summer [for 32 years] to continue his formal learning,” said Schmid.

According to Adair’s biography, he went to those seminars to “broaden my intellectual horizons and upgrade the quality of material in my classes.”

His students—past and present—are grateful for the wisdom he shared with them and Adair undoubtedly left a profound effect on many of them.

“I admired Mr. Adair,” said 20-year-old, Jessica Lyon, a 2017 graduate of CCC and currently a junior at Stockton University. “His love for literature and his eye for detail made me want to come to class.

“Not only that,” the Literature major continued, “but his genuine concern for his students made him a favorite of many in the CCC community.”

“I think he had a huge impact on CCC,” said 20-year-old sophomore Andrea Butcher, a television production and journalism major. “He was always one of the English professors everyone would recommend to incoming students. My time with him as his student gave me a broadened respect for literature and a better understanding of why authors use the words and phrases they use.”

Read: Idleness Puts NJ Youth at High Risk for Opioid Addiction

Student after student responded to Adair’s death by heaping an extraordinary amount of praise on him regarding the content of his character.

“He embodied such a vibrant scholastic spirit that it inspired me—and I’m sure several other students—to write better, read critically, and love to learn,” said 20-year-old Shoanne Seijas, another 2017 graduate of CCC, who is now an Anthropology major at Stockton University.

Justine Lampe, who graduated CCC with a degree in business administration in 2008, shared an experience that may sum up the love Adair had for teaching and sharing his knowledge with students.

He embodied such a vibrant scholastic spirit that it inspired me—and I’m sure several other students—to write better, read critically, and love to learn.

“I was one of only three students who signed up for Professor Adair’s British Literature II [class] one semester,” revealed Lampe, a musician, who is currently working on an electronic album for Legendary Entertainment. “Some days I was the only one who would make it in. Professor Adair still would hold class and we would discuss music, literature, and inspiration.” 

Adair was humbled yet proud of the impact he had on his students.

“Through the years, they tell me thank you, Mr. Adair, or send me a note saying I’m going to a star university now—majoring in English,” said Adair, in a 2016 interview with SNJ Today reporter Mickey Brandt.

Much like his students and other CCC staff, his fellow assistant professors in the arts, humanities, developmental studies, health sciences and math division of the college have fond memories of Adair.

“John Adair had a great perspective about the college since he dedicated himself to teaching at CCC for 50 years,” said Renee Post, communications coordinator at the college. “He had a rich history and knowledge of the college not many others had.”

Also, according to Post, if she was going through a difficult time, “He always knew the right time to provide an encouraging word to me when I needed it.”

“Professor Adair was a huge influence to so many people, and he was instrumental in my life and teaching career,” said Kevin McGarvey, assistant professor of English, who had a close relationship with Adair. “He hired me 30 years ago, mentored me [and] treated me like a son. I can count on one hand people who have meant so much to me.”

“It won’t be the same in our division without him,” added Post. “He will be sorely missed.”

Adair’s passing will leave a major hole in the soul of Cumberland County College, however, the memory of this wonderful man will live in the hearts and minds of all the people he has touched

Related: 50 Years and County for Cumberland County College

SNJ Today is a Southern New Jersey news and information source that is dedicated to providing current stories related specifically to South Jersey.

Do you have community news or events? Email news@snjtoday.com, text SNJNews to 313131, or call 856.825.NEWS (6397).