John D. Vairo, founding campus executive officer of Penn State Brandywine and a resident of Middletown Township since 1967,died January 1, 2012 after a one-year battle with esophageal cancer. He was 91.
Mr. Vairo was born in Felitto, Italy, and came to the United States as an infant. He earned a bachelor of science degree in navigation from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point, NY; a bachelor of arts degree in American history from Syracuse University; and a master’s of arts degree in journalism from Penn State.
He served in the U.S. Navy as a navigator during World War II and was discharged as a lieutenant (jg).
In the 1950’s he worked as a journalist serving as editor of the Jersey Shore Herald, Jersey Shore, PA, and the Lehighton Evening Leader, Lehighton, PA; news bureau manager for the Corning Leader, Corning, NY; circulation manager for the Milton Evening Standard, Milton, PA; and county editor for the Clinton County Times, Lock Haven, PA..
From 1956-67, he was an associate professor of journalism at Penn State’s University Park campus and served as advisor of the student newspaper, the Daily Collegian.
He was chosen in 1967 by Penn State’s then-president Eric Walker and the University’s Board of Trustees, to found Penn State Brandywine (then known as Penn State’s Delaware County Campus) and served as the executive officer, an office he held until his retirement in 1986.
Vairo began the campus in Chester in temporary facilities, a former fish market below a roller skating rink, with 11 full-time faculty and 236 students. The campus moved to its current location on 90 acres in Middletown Township in 1971. When he retired in 1986, the campus had 60 full-time faculty, 1,400 students, and two major buildings.
In 1995, the campus’ library was named the John D. Vairo Library in his honor. The John D. and Greta C. Vairo Scholarship was named in honor of Mr. Vairo and his wife Greta to provide scholarships to campus students who were continuing their education at the University Park Campus. The John D. Vairo Library Endowment Fund was established in his honor to raise funds for the campus’ library.
He served Middletown Township as chair of the Tricentennial Committee in 1986, and was a member of the Planning Commission and the Fire Apparatus Committee. He also was a charter member and two-time president of the Middletown Township Business Association.
At Neumann University, he was a member of the advisory board for the LINC program and served on the Physical Therapy Committee.
A member of the Media Rotary Club since 1971, he was a past-president of the Media Rotary Foundation, chair of the Information Committee, and head of the Adult Literacy program, which was honored for its outstanding literacy work.
He also was a member of the Delaware County Heritage Commission, the Delaware
County Chamber of Commerce, the Delaware County Torch Club, the Delaware County Literacy Council, and the PENJERDEL Corp. He was board chairman of the Greater Delaware County Chapter of the American Red Cross and a board member of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter.
He was a member of the board of managers of the Central Delaware County YMCA and was instrumental in raising the funds to establish the Rocky Run YMCA, the board of directors of the Delaware County Library System, and the board of Tyler Arboretum.
He was instrumental in founding three planning commissions in the State College area: the
Patton Township, Centre County, and Centre Regional Planning Commissions, and served as chairman of all three. Vairo Boulevard in State College was named in his honor for this work. He also was a member of the Pennsylvania Planning Association.
Mr. Vairo was made an honorary board member of the Healthy Communities Initiatives in Media, PA was recognized as one of the top 50 people in Pennsylvania to help schools at the secondary and post-secondary level improve their school newspapers by the Columbia University Scholastic Press Association, and received the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Achievement Award and the Friend of the Community Award from the Congregation Beth Israel of Media, PA.
His memberships included Penn State’s Alumni Association, the Philadelphia and national chapters of the Society for Professional Journalists; the Delaware County Press Club, Kappa Tau, honorary journalism society; Pi Gamm Mu, social science honorary; the Association for Education in Journalism; the Pennsylvania School Press Association; and the Four Chaplain’s Legion of Honor.
He was a member of St. Francis De Sales Catholic Church in Lenni since 1967 and served on several committees.
He enjoyed traveling, especially to Italy and Switzerland, playing several musical instruments, and doing yard work.
He was preceded in death by his wife of 59 years Greta A. Vairo who died in April 2009.
Daughters: Annina (Al) Neffgen of Lake Lure, NC, Christine (Tim) Weiss of Statesville, NC, and Priscilla Archambo-Vairo of Middletown Township, PA
Son: Carl (Cindy) Vairo of Middletown Twp., Media, PA
MEMORIAL GIFTS: In lieu of flowers the family requests contributions be made to Penn State Brandywine, Office of Development, 25 Yearsley Mill Road, Media, PA 19063; OR Heartland Hospice, 5 Christy Dr., Chadds Ford, PA 19317.