John Gilbert Watson, Ph.D., dean of the School of Business at St. Bonaventure University, died Sunday after suffering a stroke while visiting friends in York, Pa. He was 67.
Dr. Watson, a native of the York area, was a revered and respected figure of the Olean and St. Bonaventure communities, pairing a supreme knowledge of basketball and business with a classy, down-to-earth demeanor and a love of teaching and coaching.
A professor of management sciences, Dr. Watson served two terms as dean, most recently for the past four years. Last fall, he announced plans to retire at the end of this school year in May. After joining the Business School faculty in 1975, he served as dean from 1976 to 1984. He also was vice president for academic affairs from 1981 to 1994.
"There's probably no one more respected than John Watson," said Larry Ford, a longtime university administrator. "He was the consummate administrator. He was as fair as you could get them. His students came first, and he knew that the only reason he is there is because of the students and the only reason faculty are there is because of the students."
Dr. Watson specialized in business policy and union-management relations as a professor and was also a respected arbitrator.
Dr. Watson earned bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Detroit and played -- as a 6-foot-4 point guard -- on the university's basketball team that went to the NIT. He received his doctorate from St. Louis University in 1974.
After coming to St. Bonaventure, where he went on to become chairman of the management sciences department and director of the master of science and professional leadership program.
"[He had a] lot of business experience, [was] a very gifted professor, a very bright man, and I think one his students could really relate to," said Michael Fischer, provost and vice president for academic affairs.
Dr. Watson's wife, Suzanne, retired last year after nine years as a lecturer in the computer science department at St. Bonaventure. Their son, Steve, is the university's director of athletics, and another son, John J., is a professor of marketing at the university.
"We always looked up to him, how he treated my Mom," said Steve Watson. "When you get older, you try to live your life like somebody. With him, our best role model was our Dad."
From the early 1980s through the early '90s, Dr. Watson coached both of his sons as head basketball coach for Archbishop Walsh High School in Olean. He took his teams on trips to play top teams in New York City, Toronto, Pennsylvania and Ireland. The trips forged a bond between the teams and their coach, and also led to the tiny Catholic school being ranked as the top team in Western New York.
"If you were playing for him, you always wanted to win, but you kind of wanted to win for him," said Joseph Bantelman, a former player. "You wanted to do it for him. He cared about his guys."
For the past 10 years, Dr. Watson also served as the color analyst for St. Bonaventure men's basketball games on WPIG-FM radio.
"He knew more about the game than most guys would ever know," Bantelman said.
Known as "Doc," he preferred to be known as a reserved, down-to-earth friend to all. Anyone he met, he was familiar with, not only his fellow faculty members, but the maintenance men who cut grass outside his office, his son John said. He was on the board of trustees of Olean General Hospital, and he and his wife adopted two Vietnamese girls, Jane and Christine, in the early 1970s.
"If there was something he could do to help other people out, he would do it," John said. In addition to his sons and his wife of 45 years, Dr. Watson is survived by a daughter, Jane Joy.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 5 p.m. today in St. Bonaventure Parish, 95 E. Main St., Allegany. A public reception will follow in Hickey Dining Hall, 3261 W. State Road, St. Bonaventure.
-- Charlie Specht