For Immediate Release — Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2006


Mary E. McCrank

Media Relations Officer

(585) 245-5516

Isom E. Fearn Jr., longtime director of SUNY Geneseo's Access Opportunity Program, dies at 64

GENESEO, N.Y. — Isom E. Fearn Jr., who last month retired as the longtime director of the Access Opportunity Program (AOP) at the State University of New York at Geneseo, died Saturday night in his home after a yearlong battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 64.

Fearn came to Geneseo in 1974 to serve as director of what was then known as the college's Equal Opportunity Program (EOP), which was initiated in 1968 to provide academically and economically disadvantaged minority and white students an opportunity to attend college. Fearn was responsible for administering comprehensive services including admissions, financial aid and academic support to students who qualified for EOP. He retired from Geneseo Jan. 31, 2006.

In the late 1990s, the program was changed to Access Opportunity Programs, which includes both the state's EOP program and the locally sponsored Transitional Opportunity Program (TOP). When Fearn arrived in Geneseo, 80 students were enrolled in EOP. Today, 367 students benefit from the EOP and TOP programs.

Geneseo Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Katherine Conway-Turner said Fearn was a fundamental contributor to the personal success of his students, many of whom now serve as successful and committed members of their communities.

"He was a very important member of the Geneseo community for 32 years. I think he certainly was an exceptional mentor for students and really went the extra mile to lend advice to students whenever they needed it," said Conway-Turner. "He really has left quite a wonderful legacy."

Dean of the College Susan Bailey said Fearn always worked hard to ensure that students in the AOP program stayed in school and graduated.

"It just amazes me what he has done for the AOP program. He's also one of the hardest working people I've ever known," said Bailey. "He really cared about every single student. He really didn't care about the program as much as the individual students in it. I think he was totally absorbed by the job. It was just that important to him."

Fearn was lauded for his leadership. In 1998, he received a SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence for his achievements and contributions to education, and in 1992 he was selected by his peers as New York State EOP Director of the Year.

But those accolades weren't what made Fearn the beloved man he was, said Calvin Gantt, associate director of the AOP program.

"Isom has taught me over time that a person's worth is reflected in what they do, not what they say. He also taught me that the legacy that we leave behind is not attached to accolades and awards, but to the success we see in the people whose lives we intersect with. It is this way of living and being that I have come to know as the essence of Isom Fearn," said Gantt. "He loved what he did, and it showed in the admiration and respect that he has received from anyone who knew him. I am sad to say that I will not have him just an office or a phone call away, but I am reassured that he has imprinted on my heart the need to treat every person I come into contact with as if they are gold, as life is precious!"

Fearn served as a role model for his students, said Doug Harke, director of sponsored research at Geneseo, who became close friends with Fearn during the three decades they worked together.

"He has been a real role model for the young people. He really worked hard to put structure and purpose into young people's lives," said Harke. "He was a strong leader. Sometimes he was a parent figure. His students often came from families where there weren't strong ties. He worked hard to understand the students. He set standards and expectations. The students realized they had to meet those standards otherwise they wouldn't be here."

Fearn also was involved with the community. In 2001, he joined the Board of Directors of the Mental Health Association of Rochester/Monroe County Inc., shortly after the association opened its Livingston County office. He was very involved in raising public awareness about mental health issues and was a great supporter of the Skyway Golf Tournament, the organization's annual fund-raiser, said Patricia Woods, executive director of the association.

Prior to his career at Geneseo, Fearn served as a counselor for students at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside for five years. He also taught part-time for a year in the adult education program at Gateway Technical Institute in Kenosha, Wis.

Fearn received his bachelor of arts degree in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside in 1970 and his master of science degree in educational administration from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1972. He also was a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, serving from 1964-67.

Fearn is survived by his wife, Betty Fearn, a counselor in Geneseo's AOP program; their adult children, Anthony Ivan Fearn and Cynthia Murray; and three grandchildren.

Calling hours will be from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. Thursday, March 2, at the Rector Hicks Funeral Home at 111 Main St. in Geneseo. The funeral will be at 11 a.m. Friday, March 3, at Christ Community Church, 26 Center St. in Geneseo.

Memorial donations may be made to the Geneseo Foundation/AOP Fund, SUNY Geneseo, 1 College Circle, 202 Erwin Hall, Geneseo, N.Y. 14454.