UPDATE: Kent State Professor Emeritus Dies After Being Hit by Car

Memorial service for Dr. Gordon Vars tentatively set for March 10 at his beloved church.

Editor's note: This article was updated at 2:30 p.m.

A memorial service is tentatively set for March 10 for retired professor Dr. Gordon Vars, 88, who died late Tuesday night after being hit by a car near his Fairchild Avenue home.

The Summit County Medical Examiner’s Office and report that Vars was crossing Fairchild Avenue at the intersection of Woodard Avenue when he was struck by a westbound Volkswagon Beetle at 10 p.m. Tuesday.

The transported Vars to Akron City Hospital, where he died of his injuries at 11:32 p.m. An autopsy is scheduled for today.

Kent Police report that alcohol is not a suspected factor in the crash, which is still under investigation. The driver's name will be released upon completion of the investigation.

The Rev. Melissa Carvill-Ziemer of the said a memorial service is tentatively set for March 10 at the church, where Vars was “a very loyal and devoted member” since February 1967.

Carvill-Ziemer said she was with Vars’ widow, Alice, this morning as she gave a television interview.

“Alice was reviewing things about his life – and he was a really remarkable man,” Carvill-Ziemer said. “He was very active in his loves, but very careful about allocating his time. He was just finishing up the editing phase of his newest book; he was always defending the (Kent) bog. He loved birds, he loved people. He was just a wonderful man – very warm and friendly.”

Carvill-Ziemer said Vars’ dedication to the church was unwavering.

“I’ve been here six and a half years and can count on one hand the number of Sundays he hasn’t been at church. He was so faithful. He sat in the same seat every week. He was still stinging in the choir,” she said.

Vars taught Sunday school classes for UU middle-school age children for “many, many years. There are many people who still called him Dr. Vars because they remember growing up with him as their Sunday school teacher. He participated in so many activities, social events and adult education events.”

Carvill-Ziemer said the church will keep the community updated via its website and its Facebook page about the memorial service tentatively set for March 10.

Emily Vincent, director of media relations at Kent State, said Vars was an emeritus professor of teaching, leadership and curriculum studies.

According to the 2005 book “The Encyclopedia of Middle Grades Education,” Vars was co-founder and first president of the Midwest Middle School Association, precursor of the National Middle School Association.

“Gordon Vars has been a proponent of core curriculum since his first education course as an undergraduate at Antioch College,” the book stated. “His career has been devoted to teaching about and advocating for core curriculum – a person-centered, democratic approach to education.”

The book stated that Vars started at Kent State in 1966 as a professor of education in the Department of Teaching, Leadership and Curriculum Studies and as coordinator of the Middle School Division of the Kent State University School of Education.

In 1975, the book reported, he became coordinator of the Kent State Junior High/Middle School Staff Development Program, a field-based graduate concentration to assist current classroom-based educators to improve their middle school grades teaching practices. He remained in that position until his retirement in 1993.

Throughout his career, Vars authored numerous research papers and books on topics related to middle school education.

He was a very active member of Friends of the Kent Bog, a group "dedicated to the protection and preservation of the Tom S. Cooperrider Kent Bog State Nature Preserve for the education, enjoyment and inspiration of present and future generations."

Pamela Groomes February 03, 2012 at 04:18 PM
I am saddened to learn about the death of Gordon Vars. He was my social studies teacher during the1960s at the Kent State University School. I had reconnected with him several years ago when visiting the Kent Bog and had no idea of his involvment. I learned about his connection by reading the pamphlets he had written about the plants, nature walks, and rules and regulations of the bog on the back of recycled paper. I called him from the bog and asked if he remembered me...he didn't. I went on to explain to him that I was his student 40 some years ago and that my grandparents, Harry and Olive Stark, owned the farm where the bog was located. He was surprised to hear my story. I was leaving the next day to go back to Florida but he had time to meet with me that day and we had a great chat. Gordon and I became reacquainted and I felt a great appreciation for him once again. I am an advocate of the Kent Bog, not only because of my family, but also out of my concern for the importanance of this precious ecosystem and its protection. I knew that I could always count on Gordon to be a mighty advocate for the bog. He was dedicated and tireless with his work and commitment. He mentioned to me several times that younger blood was needed to carry on the work. I only wish I were back in Kent to carry on, maybe someday I can return to help. I agree that the walkway should be named in honor of Gordon Vars. God rest his soul, he will be greatly missed. Pamela Groomes, Palm City Florida
Tarpet February 04, 2012 at 10:16 PM
My dear friend was the driver of the car that hit Gordan Vars. He stepped out in front of her car. She never saw him at all. She is the kind of person who will scoop up a spider in a paper and put it outside rather than kil it. She, like Gordan Vars, is very involved in her church & was a church secretary for years. She is so distraught about this that her family has not left her alone since it happened. Everyone who knows her is broken hearted for her. She is the best & kindest person I have ever met and it pains me for people to think that she might be a careless, angry or distracted driver. Her heart is breaking for his friends and family.
Kasha Legeza February 04, 2012 at 11:41 PM
Thank you for sharing this perspective, Tarpet. What a tragedy for everyone involved ...
GChung June 13, 2012 at 08:54 AM
Well, that was serious loss to all.
Michael L. Hays January 25, 2014 at 05:23 PM
I came late to this news of Dr. Vars's death out of curiosity at a very late date about his career. I bear no ill will to the man or his memory, but my experience with him was very different from the experiences reported on this blog. In the summer of 1962, when I was the first enrollee in a Ford Foundation program in secondary education, Dr. Vars was my assigned director in Cornell University's School of Education. For reasons, if any, unknown to me, Dr. Vars disliked me from the moment when I first walked into his office. I was the first student teacher at a remote site which had not wanted to participate in the program. Dr. Vars tried to sabotage my experience there. The Dean intervened, had me re-assigned to another remote site, and made Dr Vars promise to give me the grades which my supervisors there gave me. When they gave me 95s, he reduced them to 85s. When I asked him about his reasons and his promise to the Dean, he said that he gave the grades and did not care about his promise to the Dean in this matter. When he threatened to fail me after my oral exam, the other two professors, who regarded my performance as entirely satisfactory, threatened to go to the Dean to report his intention as entirely unwarranted if he carried it out; he did not. In the following spring of 1963, the department faculty elected me to membership in Phi Delta Kappa; I believed even then that, in honoring me, it was sending a message to Dr. Vars, not then a member. I completed my work in early 1964 and received my degree later in the year, after I had entered the Army. Years later, on a return visit to Cornell, I learned that Dr. Vars had left Cornell in 1966. I suspect, but do not know, that he was denied tenure. I am pleased that he has proved a better teacher for so many for so long at Kent State and prefer to think that his behavior toward me was anomalous.


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