Campus mourns loss of John F. Zeller III
All of Bucknell University mourns the passing of a dear friend, John F. Zeller III. A member of the Class of 1941, John was a part of Bucknell University for 68 of his 91 years. We are all reminded of John's legacy by his words that we first see as we enter Bertrand Library: "We are all teachers here."
He earned a bachelor's and master's degree in political science from Bucknell and was a charter member of Bucknell's chapter of Phi Beta Kappa before serving in the U.S. Army during World War II. He then earned his law degree at the University of Pennsylvania before serving in the Korean War, for which he earned a Bronze Star.
John returned to Bucknell after Korea to teach, but by virtue of his leadership skills was soon appointed to the administration and promoted to vice president for business and fiscal affairs. Later, he simultaneously served as general counsel. He served as acting president in 1984.
During his long years of service he made numerous contributions to the excellence of Bucknell, including:
- Leadership in overseeing the development of literally dozens of buildings on campus
- Strengthening the relationship between Bucknell and the local community
- Helping to increase the endowment by 20-fold to more than $100 million, including Bucknell's first fully endowed faculty chair
John retired in 1986, but he and his wife Martha have continued to be active members of the Bucknell family. In fact, John always enjoyed participating in the annual recognition of the Zeller Award, which recognizes a member of the support staff who demonstrates consistent excellence in the conduct of his or her responsibilities.
As an alumnus and administrative leader, John dedicated his time, wisdom and expertise to ensuring the excellence of a Bucknell University education for generations of students. John's colleagues called him "creative and innovative," "wise," "witty," "generous" and "compassionate." They also described him as a "moral model" for students, faculty and administrative colleagues. John's dedication to the University for more than six decades earned him the nickname "Mr. Bucknell."
During Bucknell's 2010 Commencement ceremony, John was honored with the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters. As recently as last month, John attended the home opener of the men's basketball season and was recognized at a special half-time presentation for his lifetime of service and dedication to his beloved Bucknell. Through the generosity of the Charles B. Degenstein Foundation, the Sojka Pavilion video board was named in John's honor.
John is survived by his wife of 55 years, Martha Harris Zeller; their three children, Marijane M. Zeller (Majie) and her husband, David Kravitz, of Medford, Mass.; John F. Zeller IV (Jack), his wife Pat Zeller of Holland, Penn., and their sons, Brian Zeller and Grant Zeller '12; and Margaret H. Zeller (Meg) of Wyoming, Ohio, and her children, Anna Helen Sponaugle, William Harris Sponaugle, and Peter John Sponaugle; and many good friends.
A memorial service will be held on Sunday, December 12 at 1:30 p.m. at Rooke Chapel, Bucknell University, followed by a reception in the Weis Center for Performing Arts lobby. Memorial contributions may be made in John's memory to the First Baptist Church of Lewisburg, 51 South Third Street, Lewisburg, PA 17837, or The John F. and Martha H. Zeller Scholarship at Bucknell University.
On behalf of the entire Bucknell community, I extend our deepest sympathies to the Zeller family.