Dr. John's Story

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Dr. John (Jack) B. Oblak, 74, formerly of Ithaca, N.Y., and San Carlos, Calif., passed away peacefully due to complications from pneumonia at Chester County Hospital in West Chester, Penn., on Thursday, March 23, 2017, surrounded by his family.
He leaves his wife of 49 years, Janiece Bacon Oblak, and their children, James Jeb Bacon Oblak and his son Malcolm, of Swarthmore Penn.; Jonathan Bacon Oblak (Alexandra) and children Hannah, Phoebe, Maxwell and Lila, of Manhattan, N.Y.; daughter, Jolynn Oblak, of Rockland County, N.Y.; and daughter, Jessica Oblak Ho-Sang (Omar), of Oviedo, Fla., and children Dominic, Jasmine and Matthew.
Known affectionately by his grandchildren as "Pops," they will miss his numerous stories, sense of humor and positive outlook.
He is survived by two half-brothers, David Farber of Morehouse, N.Y., and Irving "Cap" Fuller (Carlotta), of East Herkimer, N.Y.; and a stepsister, Janet Atutis (Peter), of Little Falls, N.Y.
Jack was born on June 1, 1942, in Little Falls, N.Y. His late parents were Henry J. Oblak of Little Falls, N.Y., and Lillian W. Farber, of Piseco, N.Y. A graduate of Herkimer High School, class of 1960, and SUNY Geneseo in 1964, he received his master's degree in theater direction and production in 1966 from the University of Nebraska and his Ph.D. in theater history, criticism and dramatic literature in 1971 from the University of Kansas.
After working at the Lakewood Summer Theatre as the technical director during the summers of 1965-1967, he authored "Bringing Broadway to Maine: A History of the Lakewood Summer Theatre, 1900-1969." During his lifetime, he served as the technical director of more than 50 productions and as the artistic director for more than 60 productions.
Jack enjoyed a long and distinguished career in higher education, starting at Indiana State University in 1969, where he served as acting director of theater and assistant dean of academic services. In 1979, he moved with his young family to Ithaca, N.Y., where he served for 21 years at Ithaca College in capacities ranging from dean of humanities and sciences to vice president of student affairs and campus life. In 2000, he accepted a position as president of College of Notre Dame in Belmont, Calif., where he implemented changing the name to Notre Dame de Namur University and increased the endowment. In 2008, he and his wife moved back east to be closer to their grandchildren. Treasured experiences at NDNU included meeting Sr. Helen Prejean during the world premiere of her stage adaptation of "Dead Man Walking," in which he appeared as a priest; he also played the ghost of Christmas past in "A Christmas Carol."
While in retirement, he became a consultant for the Registry of College and University Presidents, serving at Lake Erie College in Painesville, Ohio, and at the Academy of Notre Dame in Tyngsboro, Mass. He continued to be involved in the theater as recently as February of 2016, when he directed an original play at the Shawnee Playhouse in Shawnee, Penn.
Jack left three enduring legacies: his love of family; love of theater/higher education; and belief in equality, social justice and community. Agencies benefiting from his time and energy include the Sequoia Health District, United Way of Tompkins County, the Tompkins County Foundation, Tompkins County Southern Tier Catholic Charities, Cayuga Chamber Orchestra, Hanger Theatre, Community School of Music and Arts, and others too numerous to name.
Jack believed that higher education is a privilege, in return for which one should make a contribution to the greater good and benefit of others. This was ingrained in him and passed on to his children. His greatest achievement was his family and it was this love of family that motivated him and his wife to enlarge their existing family through adoption. In Terre Haute, Ind., he and Janiece founded a support/advocacy group for families of mixed-race adopted children.
A celebration of his life will be held in Ithaca, N.Y., in early June. In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory can be made to the Dr. John B. Oblak Scholarship Fund at Ithaca College (attention: Gift Processing), Ithaca College, 953 Danby Road, Ithaca, NY 14850. Gifts can be made online or by check (made out to Ithaca College; memo to Dr. John B. Oblak Scholarship Fund). The scholarship will be awarded to a theater arts major demonstrating financial need.
Published on March 28, 2017
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