PORT ANGELES — Paul G. Cornaby, Peninsula College president emeritus and namesake of the Cornaby Center, has died at the age of 88.
Cornaby died Sept. 2 surrounded by family in Seattle, they said. The family plans a private gathering and interment in Port Angeles.
Cornaby, a 40-year resident of Port Angeles, served as president of the community college from 1975-1992.
“Interdisciplinary” described both the man and his approach to education, recalled Fred Thompson, who said he knew Cornaby for 31 years.
Cornaby hired Thompson to teach English at Peninsula College in 1979. They also played chamber music together in the Peninsula Trio for about 13 years, along with Rosemary Brauninger, Thompson said.
He described Cornaby as a “balanced human being,” who read voraciously and took an interest in almost everything. From music to mechanics to the finer points of grammar, Cornaby could contend with the best, he said.
“He was a Renaissance man, who was knowledgeable about lots of things,” Thompson said.
Similarly, former Peninsula College journalism professor Robbie Mantooth recalled her “many special,” diverse conversations with Cornaby while she worked in communications for the college.
“Sometimes we’d talk about College projects, but often the topics would reflect diverse topics his brilliant and energetic mind had pondered,” Mantooth wrote in an email.
“When he stopped by my office to talk, the subject matter might be lofty or as mundane as his distress at the way the local sports editor kept using ‘hung’ when the correct word was ‘hanged.’”
Cornaby’s interdisciplinary approach to education meant he supported a wide swath of programs, Thompson said, naming art disciplines — illustrative and musical, the statewide Humanities Project, vocational training, the honors program, family life education and journalism.
“His work to make them great have led to where they are now,” he said.
Thompson characterized Cornaby’s leadership style as thoughtful, not full of bravado but eager to give others credit.
When presidents of community colleges around the state met once a month, Cornaby’s opinions fell on attentive ears, Thompson said.
“When he talked, people listened,” he said. “He was not loquacious. He was probably a man of few words, rather than a man of many words.”
Like the quiet nature of his leadership, Cornaby’s sense of humor steeped in “subtlety and wit,” Thompson said.
“He would not miss a chance to make a play on a word someone used,” he said. “And he had a repertoire of literary quotes.”
Cornaby’s passion for learning earned him a bachelor’s degree from Westminster College, a master’s degree from Brigham Young University and a doctorate in education from the University of Washington. He taught in the public schools in Idaho Falls, Idaho, and was a member of the Idaho National Guard.
After moving to Seattle, he began an extensive career in the Washington state community college system. He taught at Highline Community College, was the dean of instruction at Seattle Central Community College and finally served as the president of Peninsula College, a position he held for 17 years.
Cornaby joins his wife of 60 years, Betty Biddle Cornaby, and daughter Margaret Fey in death.
Surviving family include son John G. Cornaby and his wife, Patrice Cornaby, of Lake Forest Park; his daughter, Mary E. Cornaby of Arlington, Va.; grandchildren Colin Cornaby of Portland, Ore., Leslie Cornaby of Seattle, Clare Jarvis of Sunnyvale, Calif., Andrew Jarvis of Orlando, Fla., and Rob Cooke of Seattle; and three great-grandchildren.
Memorial contributions may be made in Cornaby’s name to the Northwest Parkinson’s Foundation at nwpf.org.