Shakeeb Joseph Nassif, 80 of Winter Park, Florida, died peacefully on Friday, November 23, 2018. He was born in Cedar Rapids on August 30, 1938, the son of Samuel J. and Mary Nassif. He graduated from Franklin High School and received his B.A. in Biology from Grinnell College in 1958. He followed his passion for theatre by completing an MFA from Yale University School of Drama and later a Ph.D. in Dramatic Literature and Criticism from the University of Denver.
Joe’s earliest pursuits led to guest directing and teaching experiences at University of Michigan, University of Montana, and St. Bonaventure University. His professional life was extended beyond academic experiences in Pittsburgh where he was producer/director of public affairs programs for Westinghouse Broadcasting Company, KDKA-TV, including CONTACT with Marie Torre, Not Just Sunday and The Business of Culture, which received national recognition. In 1969, Joe became Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Playhouse, one of the nation’s oldest regional theaters, and Chair of Theater and Dance at Point Park College. He also served as Executive Producer of the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, which he helped found.
As an entrepreneur, Joe was co-owner with his brother, Nathan Nassif, and the executive manager of the SJN & Sons property management company for 22 years. From 1972-1991 the brothers and their families operated The St. Elmo Hotel in Chautauqua, New York, a historic setting dedicated to the fine and performing arts.
Joe’s theatre career in Florida began in 1982 when he was invited to stage a production of Murder in the Cathedral, by T.S. Eliot, at Rollins College. The following year he returned to the College as Chair of the Theater Department and the Director of the Annie Russell Theater. Under his leadership, the department grew quickly. During his tenure, the number of majors more than doubled and a program in dance was introduced. New faculty, guest artists and master classes given by prominent theatre and dance figures brought new life to the department.
In 2002, Rollins merged its fine and performing arts programs—including the schools of art, music, theater and dance—into a consolidated program and Joe was named the first director of ARC—Arts at Rollins College. In addition to receiving the Arthur Vining Davis award from Rollins College and the Alumni Award from Yale University in 2000, he was awarded the Winifred M. Warden Chair of Theatre Arts and Dance. He retired from Rollins in 2004 with the rank of Professor Emeritus.
After returning to Cedar Rapids in 2004, Joe continued his involvement with the arts through academic and performance related activities at Coe College, Mt Mercy University, and The Old Creamery Theatre in Amana. He continued to provide acting tutorials and served as a regional advisor for prospective Yale University undergraduates.
While living in Cedar Rapids, he treasured time with family, friends, his Saturday morning breakfast club, and Franklin High School classmates. As a very young man, Joe was ordained as a Sub-Deacon in the Orthodox Church by Archbishop Antony Bashir, and assumed leadership roles within the Archdiocese throughout his adult life. In Cedar Rapids, he served St. George Church as a board member, as an Orthodox education instructor and scholarship advisor.
In all ways, Joe was a force for good. He was a master teacher always bringing out the best in his students while his personal style and charm were unforgettable. His happiest moments were church fundraisers and food festivals and sharing family stories from the past. He travelled extensively throughout the world but his most treasured experience was celebrating his 21st birthday in his beloved Lebanon with his father and grandfather, ringing the church bell in the family’s ancestral village. Joe will be remembered for the many lives he touched and the influence he bestowed on others during his long and cherished life.
Joe was preceded in death by his father and mother and is survived by his brother, Nathan Nassif (Briana) of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, his sister Catherine Payvandi (Naser) of Cedar Rapids, Iowa; his children Jonathan Nassif ( Laurie) and grandchild, Sam, of Denver, Colorado, his daughter, Alexandra Magargee, and three grandchildren, William, Nicholas, Genevieve (their father,Todd); his former wife, Michelle McKenna of Princeton, NJ., and his nieces and nephews – Nathan, Sophie, Laila, Darius, Cyrus and Alexander, and a multitude of cousins he dearly loved. The family has special love and gratitude for Bertie Henry, Joe’s loyal caregiver and friend.
A Visitation will be held from 5:00 – 6:30 pm Sunday, December 9, 2018 at St. George Orthodox Church with a Trisagion Service beginning at 7:00 pm. Funeral service will be held at 10:00 am Monday, December 10, 2018 at St. George Orthodox Church in Cedar Rapids. Entombment: Cedar Memorial Park Cemetery, Chapel of Memories.
Memorials may be directed to St. George Orthodox Church in memory of Joe.