Jack G. Shaheen, Jr.
It is with great sadness and love that we announce that our beloved husband and father, Jack Shaheen, passed away Sunday, July 9 at age 81. He is now with Our Lord.
A Pittsburgh native and passionate Steelers fan, Jack loved Hilton Head Island, his adopted home since 1995. He never tired of its natural beauty, taking long strolls on the beach and on Port Royal Plantation. A music-lover, he was a former board member of the Hilton Head Orchestra. His favorite spot was the Jazz Corner, which he attended regularly with his beloved wife Bernice. A man of faith, Jack was proud of his Orthodox Christian roots and attended services at Holy Resurrection Greek Orthodox Church in Bluffton.
You didn’t have to be Jack’s friend to be the recipient of his smile, a friendly joke or a handshake. He was always brightening other peoples’ days. Security guards, shop assistants, airport staff, the person standing next to him in the line at Barnes & Noble—they were all candidates for his twinkling blue eyes. He loved getting to know someone new, and people loved it too because they recognized that his interest in them was genuine and entirely benevolent.
For Jack, every individual was a unique person worthy of being known. He never confused a person’s occupation or financial position in life with his or her value. Jack’s mother, Nazara, a Lebanese immigrant, worked as a janitress at the local school. When your mother is one of the best persons on the planet and has a role that is invisible to others, then you are sensitized. No one was invisible to Jack. They were all visible and valued.
It may have come as a surprise to those who did not know him better that this man with the bright smile was also an internationally recognized humanitarian and scholar. During his years as a mass communications professor at University of Southern Illinois at Edwardsville, he pioneered an entirely new area of research, rigorously documenting and challenging the images of Arabs and Muslim in American media.
Jack regularly discussed media stereotypes on national programs and networks such as CNN, MSNBC, National Public Radio, Nightline, Good Morning America, 48 Hours, and The Today Show. And he served as a consultant with motion picture and television companies such as DreamWorks, Warner Brothers, Hanna-Barbera Productions, and Showtime. He wrote scores of op-ed pieces for newspapers and contributed three hundred plus feature magazine essays published in the major US and international venues. He gave over one thousand lectures throughout the US and on three continents.
His print publications include: The Survival of Public Broadcasting (1973), Nuclear War Films (1978), The TV Arab (1984), Arab and Muslim Stereotyping in American Popular Culture (1997), Guilty: Hollywood’s Verdict on Arabs after 9/11 (2008), and the award-winning Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People (2001, 2009), which the Media Education Foundation produced as a video documentary in 2006, and A is for Arab: Archiving Stereotypes in U.S. Popular Culture (2012). He has contributed more than 40 chapters to textbooks.
This man with the gentle soul and pure heart had an uncommon perseverance and certainty of purpose. He knew when he was right. He stood by his values. His determination and courage never failed.
A proud U.S. Army veteran, Jack earned degrees from the Carnegie Institute of Technology, Pennsylvania State University, and the University of Missouri, and retired Emeritus at the University of Southern Illinois - Edwardsville. Most recently, Jack has been a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at New York University’s Asian/Pacific/American Institute and the Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies.
Jack was blessed to receive recognition of his work during his lifetime. To mention a few, he was the recipient of two Fulbright teaching awards, the University of Pennsylvania’s Janet Lee Stevens Award, the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the Archangel Michael Award (from the Greek Orthodox church), and the Ellis Island of Medal Honor.
As a champion of fair treatment of Arab and Muslims, and, most importantly, by his personal example, Jack was, and continues to be, to a role model and inspiration. He has acted as mentor to countless young men and women.
His legacy is secured. In 2012, Jack donated his extensive research collection—nearly 3,000 motion pictures and television programs, toys, posters and other material—to New York University. They may now be found as the The Jack G. Shaheen Collection on Arabs in US Film and Television at the NYU Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies, and Asian/Pacific/American Institute.
The Jack G & Bernice M. Shaheen Endowed Media Scholarship Fund at CAAP was also established to support media scholars. The scholarship, which to date has had 70 recipients, secures the continuous support of increased educational opportunities for Arab American students majoring in mass communications, journalism and film.
Last but not least, Jack was a family man. He was a dedicated and loving husband to his wife, Bernice, for 51 beautiful years. He was and continues to be a hero to his daughter Michele and son Michael, who have been nurtured on his seemingly bottomless supply of love, understanding and wisdom. He welcomed Robert and Monika, his son- and daughter-in-law, as his own, becoming their dear friend and confidant. His four adored granddaughters—Julie, Lauren, Camilla and Veronica—will never forget him.
Jack G. Shaheen, Jr. You are the light of our lives—now and forever.
Following a private family burial, a celebration-of-life service will be held at 2:30 pm this Saturday, July 15, at St. Francis by the Sea, 45 Beach City Road, Hilton Head Island, SC. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you consider a modest contribution to the Jack G. and Bernice M. Shaheen Endowed Media Scholarship Fund at CAAP (www.centeraap.org).
The Island Funeral Home and Crematory. islandfuneralhome.com.
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