Home Current Events A Celebration of Life: Remembering Dr. Jeffrey W. Focht
A Celebration of Life: Remembering Dr. Jeffrey W. Focht

A Celebration of Life: Remembering Dr. Jeffrey W. Focht

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Dear Jeff:

When the pastor of Life Church Nazareth told us on Saturday that your memorial service had been planned by you more than a year ago, I was not surprised. Your academic and personal interest has been leadership, and great leaders find opportunities where others do not. An auditorium of hundreds of mourners, your friends and relatives, provided a captive audience.

The four chosen to provide a few remembrances were sequenced well. Your colleague from DeSales University, Dr. David Gilfoil, introduced us to the term “Brofessor,” and regaled us with stories of your accomplishments (Professor of the Year, to start) and your commitment to the DeSales mission of “fostering dynamic relationships and moral, spiritual, and intellectual virtues, to grow as a community…” It was unsurprising to hear that your frequent conversations with him after work about students, teaching and a general philosophy of life continued for hours, something all good “Brofessors” accommodate.

Mike Coelho, an undergraduate friend from Central Connecticut State University, reflected on those college days and the friendship that endured and strengthened over the years, particularly early on before cell phones and email, when friends had to write or use a landline. After hearing the lesson about a life well-lived if the number of close friends was no more than one’s five fingers, I understood why your relationship with him was so special. He confirmed your love of high-performance cars (reiterated later), and his story about the three-hour return trip to Pennsylvania in a specially selected Corvette last summer that lasted six hours thanks to heavy traffic was touching.

toast to Jeff
Drinking a toast to Jeff at a local restaurant.

Ted Christensen, your brother-in-law, shared family stories beginning with the first time he met you (he was 26, dating your sister, and you were 12), your move from Massachusetts to Connecticut to live with them after your father’s death, your love of cars and a wonderful detailing sideline in high school, and your successful entrepreneurship before the urge to teach inspired you to change careers. I particularly enjoyed his story about you backing out of the garage but forgetting to open the door since I did likewise some years ago.

You chose wisely when you selected your son, Nick, to conclude the remembrances, joined by daughters Jackie and Monica and your loving wife, Wanda. We often shared family stories during our doctoral journey at the University of Pennsylvania. Listening to him recount these stories confirmed for me your paternal devotion and success. He never wavered; he paused when the memory might have been tough, but I am certain that he and his sisters will perpetuate your legacy.

Pastor Jon Schwartz delivered an excellent sermon confirming your steadfast faith in Christianity and your acceptance of all individuals regardless of their faith. There were no surprises. His references to Old and New Testament scriptures triggered a “eureka” moment for me, reflecting back on our cohort’s international higher education module and trip to South Africa. I remember that you wrote a paper reflecting on the responses from South Africans to two questions: “Do you believe in God?” and, only asked of those responding affirmatively, “Since you believe in God, why do you think He allowed Apartheid to occur in South Africa?” I witnessed your discussion with a tour guide and former political prisoner on Robben Island, and it is etched in my memory. I only wish I had asked to read your paper.

Concluding Saturday’s celebration with a Justin Timberlake video Can’t Stop the Feeling sent me off with a smile, and I am sure you included it just for that reason. Several of us then came together to share a few stories and toast to your memory, cut short way too soon. We were grateful that Wanda arranged the FaceTime call between you and 14 of our cohort just two weeks earlier, and most of those unable to attend the service conveyed their condolences to her and your family.

Each speaker at your service noted your expressed belief in making a difference daily as soon as you rise, and how you made such a difference in others’ lives, especially theirs. Jeff, you indeed made a difference to many in life, and your actions will similarly inspire others to do likewise in years ahead. Thank you for your friendship, love and inspiration! Cheers to you (while enjoying a glass of your favorite Cabernet)!

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Wally Boston Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in 2002. In July 2016, he retired as APUS president and continued as CEO of APEI. In September 2017, he was reappointed APUS president after the resignation of Dr. Karan Powell. In September 2019, Angela Selden was named CEO of APEI, succeeding Dr. Boston who will remain APUS president until his planned retirement in June 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. During his tenure, APUS grew to over 100,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 90,000 alumni. In addition to his service as a board member of APUS and APEI, Dr. Boston is a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), a member of the Board of Overseers of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, a board member of the Presidents’ Forum, and a board member of Hondros College of Nursing and Fidelis, Inc. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus. Dr. Boston lives in Owings Mills, MD with his wife Sharon and their two daughters.

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