Temple University journalism professor and longtime reporter at The Philadelphia Inquirer Ralph Vigoda, 53, died on April 8 of an apparent heart attack.
Mr. Vigoda, who taught in the University’s journalism program since the 1980s, was a professor who brought his love of journalism to the classroom and the newsroom.
According to his obituary in the Inquirer, he was pronounced dead at Lankenau Hospital at 11 p.m., soon after leaving a basketball game he had been playing in.
His colleagues said that the basketball game was a weekly outing that he organized, finding courts and players. He “was always looking for fresh blood,” said Inquirer reporter Connie Langland, who worked across the desk from Mr. Vigoda for four years.
Mr. Vigoda’s students said that he had a passion for journalism that was an inspiration to them in his graduate news writing class.
Journalism masters candidate Margot Dunphy, who took his class in Spring 2002, said that he would spend a lot of time in class talking about his student’s stories, helping them find what they liked to write about.
“He loved what he did,” she said.
“He was so warm and encouraging. A lot of my fellow students said that he helped them mold their writing.”
Another masters candidate, Diane Frantz-Miller, said Mr. Vigoda caught all of the students attention on the first day of class in the fall 2000 semester.
She said that he arrived late to class and “then started telling us that there was a dispute between the president of Temple and the board of trustees and that the semester had been cancelled.”
After the students questioned Mr. Vigoda for about 10 minutes, he announced that the semester had not really been cancelled, but that they should consider his whole act as a press conference and write a story about the supposed dispute.
“He taught journalism every day, not just those hours he spent at Temple,” said Bill Ordine, Baltimore Sun assistant city editor and former Inquirer reporter.
“He taught journalism to guys like me.”
Ordine said that when [Inquirer] interns went out on their own or with Mr. Vigoda to work on a story, he would often gather the facts together and “spin out a front page story and the next day there was only [the intern’s] name on it.”
At the Inquirer, Mr. Vigoda’s name did appear on stories about issues both monumental and of human interest.
He wrote the paper’s lead story after September 11, 2001 and of a man with tattoos of Disney characters covering his body.
His final story, written hours before his death, was about a report by Pennsylvania Auditor General Robert P. Casey condemning the work of the Pa. Board of Probation and Parole.
“He was a total professional and a real pleasure to be around,” said Inquirer Editorial Page Editor Chris Satullo, who played basketball with Mr. Vigoda for 10 years.
“He’s a great guy, it’s not a cliché here.”
Mr. Vigoda is survived by his wife Tasha, two daughters, Rachel, 22, and Jessica, 27, his father William and a sister, Brooke.
His funeral took place last Thursday at the Har Jehuda Cemetary.Memorial donations may be sent to the American Heart Association, 7272 Greenville Ave., Dallas, Texas 75231, or the World Wildlife Fund, 1250 24th St. N.W., Washington D.C. 20037.
Brian White can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.