Memorial for Robert F. Panara Planned for Friday

A memorial tribute to Robert F. Panara, the much beloved professor emeritus at Rochester Institute of Technology, author, poet, historian and sports fan, is scheduled at 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 12, in the theater bearing his name at RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf in Lyndon Baines Johnson Hall. The event is scheduled to be live streamed.

The RIT flag will be lowered in his memory.

Panara died July 20. He was 94. A news obituary appeared in the NTID newsroom, as well as in major newspapers across the country.

Several speakers are expected to reflect upon Panara’s lengthy and colorful career and life at his memorial, entitled “Remembering Bob: Celebrating Robert F. Panara’s Life.” There will be video clips of him in the classroom and performances of his poetry. A reception will follow across the hall in the Joseph F. and Helen C. Dyer Arts Center, where a collection of items reflecting Panara’s various passions—including his family, teaching, sports, theater and the arts—will be displayed through Sept. 25.

“My dad accomplished so much in his life, making a difference in the lives of so many others,” said his son, John Panara, an English professor at RIT/NTID. “When people speak of him as a teacher, mentor and friend, words like ‘encouraging, caring and inspiring’ always come up. And, of course, they mention his trademark smile and positive energy.”

Panara’s best friend and biographer, NTID Professor Emeritus Harry Lang, and his wife, Professor Emeritus Bonnie Lang, are helping coordinate the memorial. “We hope those attending the memorial and the exhibit in the Dyer gallery will get not only a sense of Bob’s extraordinary career, but how he personally touched and inspired so many,” Harry Lang said.

“Robert Panara was like a deaf father to me. He made a big impact on my life,” said J.J. “The Mime” Jones, of Overland Park, Kan., who took classes taught by Panara when Jones came to RIT/NTID in 1974. “I learned about myself and Deaf culture in his Deaf Studies class. I was fascinated by the way he taught us and how he told stories! He would go on and on with great stories, and when the bell rang, we didn’t rush out of the classroom—we wanted to stay longer to listen to his entire stories. His smile and charm blew us away.”

Jones will present a brief tribute in mime during the memorial.

John Panara said the memorial will conclude with a video of his father performing his famous poem, “On His Deafness.”