FRANKLIN LAKES, N.J. -- He was as kind, generous and entertaining a friend of law enforcement as anyone who met him had known, which squeezed their souls tight as word spread that Ronald E. Calissi of Franklin Lakes died Friday morning.
Although not a surprise, his death was a shock: Ron Calissi -- one of Bergen County's most accomplished residents -- suffered a heart attack eight days earlier but initially appeared stable, colleagues said.
No surprise there, given his non-stop drive and zest for life.
Graduate school dean, law enforcement officer, author, attorney -- college weightlifting champion, too -- all united on a single resume rarely seen in any walk of life.
Calissi, 69, was "a friend and mentor to so many in the law enforcement community," said former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, also of Franklin Lakes. "He will be sadly missed."
"Ron was the ultimate gentleman and professional," added John Comparetto, a retired Passaic County Sheriff's police chief and former NYPD lieutenant.
ARRANGEMENTS: A memorial visitation and celebration of Calissi's life will be conducted from 4-7 p.m. Wednesday at Vander Plaat-Vermeulen Memorial Home, 530 High Mountain Road, Franklin Lakes. In lieu of flowers, donations be made to FDU, 1000 River Road, Teaneck, NJ 07666.
Calissi was the executive associate dean and director of the School of Administrative Science at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Petrocelli College of Continuing Studies, a position he used to improve graduate instruction for police officers of all stripes throughout New Jersey.
Calissi oversaw four graduate programs -- of administrative science, sports administration, Homeland Security and student services administration -- at dozens of strategically located off-campus instructional sites from Cape May to Mahwah.
He worked with his wife, FDU Associate Dean Deborah Fredericks.
"Words cannot express the incredible job that Ron contributed to FDU, staff, administration, students, and co-workers," wrote FDU Director Lous Talijan. "He was a game changer.
"FDU’s adult enrollment is where it is today because of Ron. The MSA program is where it is today because of Ron," Talijan added. "Sitting on the FDU MSA board with Ron, he showed all of us that his work ethic and drive was un-match-able, he was a true leader."
"There are always new ways of doing things, of bringing new people in with new ideas," Calissi recently told a veteran newsman whom he'd enlisted to lecture at a graduate-level leadership training course for police, sheriff and prosecutor's officers on the Teaneck campus. "That's why I try to bring them together."
Then there are Calissi's three decades in state and county government.
A former Bergen County Sheriff's officer, county prosecutor's investigator and special state investigator with the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, Calissi spent 22 years as director of what then was known as the Bergen County Police & Fire Academy -- regarded as New Jersey's premier training facility for emergency services workers -- in Mahwah.
Calissi was an instructor or consultant for an array of agencies, including the United Nations, the American Red Cross, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and nearly a dozen other public and non-profit organizations.
He taught various graduate and undergraduate leadership courses at FDU, as well as those in Social, Legal & Ethical Issues for the school's College of Business Administration Executive MBA program.
Quick with a joke, Calissi could have been a standup comedian, those who knew him would agree.
"It was always an animated day when Ron Calissi was at the Police and Fire Academy," police veteran Steve Makky wrote."After many false starts, I have to credit Ron with my having gone back to college," Makky added. "Twenty-two years ago, Ron started a partnership with Fairleigh Dickinson University offering college classes to police officers and firefighters from Northern NJ. The class prices were reasonable, and they were at comfortable environments in Bergen County and Essex County academies, and a few other places within a short drive.
"I wasn't in a community college with kids just continuing high school (been there, done that)," he added. "I was in class with peers and learning from actual practitioners in my neighboring communities. Many of those practitioners I had known for years and developed another dimension of respect for through the coursework and interaction. We were all in it together."
There's more: Calissi wrote "Counterpoint-The Edgar Smith Case," a non-fiction account of a highly publicized 1957 New Jersey murder case, prosecuted by his late father, Guy W. Calissi, a former Bergen County prosecutor and state Superior Court judge.
FDI in 2001 gave Calissi "The Pinnacle," its highest award for achievement bestowed on only 125 of the school's more than 100,000 graduates.
Calissi received a Bachelor's degree in history and government and an Executive MBA in Management from FDU.
He also lettered in track and field as a shot putter and was tri-campus heavyweight weightlifting champion from 1967-69 as a member of the Lettermen Athletic Club.
Calissi earned his Juris Doctorate from Seton Hall Law School and was a member of the New Jersey Bar Association for more than three decades.
He was also a certified financial planner and a certified public manager -- as well as counsel to the law firm of DeCotiis, Fitzpatrick, Cole & Wisler, LLP in Teaneck.