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Friend. Colleague. Giver. Emcee extraordinaire. IT guru. Community builder. Human help desk. The wizard of connection. Our entertainer. Kind and witty. Caretaker and protector. Source of joy. The heart and soul of Sanford.

These are some of the many words from the Duke and Sanford communities about Sanford IT manager Stan Paskoff, who worked at Duke for 43 years. Paskoff passed away on Jan. 29 at his home, surrounded by his loved ones.

In his own words from a 2014 Duke story about him: “My favorite thing is to hear people laugh.”

Paskoff provided more than the customary IT instructions and a new computer in his role. Over three decades at Sanford, he spread love every day, earning a Duke Presidential Award for outstanding service, one of the highest staff honors.

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Stan Paskoff talking with Duke President Brodhead
Stan Paskoff with former Duke President Richard Brodhead, 2014

With an infectious laugh that reverberated throughout the community, Paskoff was often the first person anyone met at Sanford, and he made it a mission to help others and succeed in his quest to bring joy. He joined Duke in 1981, and Sanford fulltime in July 1994. Like the school, Stan stood for service.

Faculty member Bill Adair was among those who met Paskoff on day one. “I came to Sanford from the cash-strapped world of a newspaper, where the IT team had little time to worry about humanity. When I got here, Stan was the first IT person I encountered, and I was struck by his warmth and wonderful sense of humor. Stan made our hardware work, with an irreverence that (almost) made it fun to call the IT Help Line.  Stan’s legacy will live on in many ways – in the warmth and love that he left here.”

Many colleagues echoed the sentiment; Paskoff’s levity and care were a lifeline to help them through the first weeks of joining Sanford. He sustained those connections with people over the years.

“His remit was technology, but his influence reached to all things human. Over the years, whenever I would see him, I would automatically feel part of a history and a community for which Stan was custodian and guiding spirit for which I am forever grateful,” said faculty member Noah Pickus.

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Stan with microphone, pointing it at a colleague
Stan regularly emceed Sanford Thanksgiving celebrations.

Along with IT support and his warm welcome, he provided an irresistible invitation to join the community happenings. In fact, Paskoff was inviting newcomers to events he helped organize as the longtime co-chair of the Internal Communications Committee (ICC) at Sanford. From the Thanksgiving celebration, to the winter holiday party, Sanford’s K-ville cleanup, myriad baby showers, wedding showers and much more, Paskoff built community. If someone had good news or tough news, Paskoff and the committee made sure Sanford sent support.

“Stan brought us together. Whether it was to share a meal, have some fun, or volunteer our time on a service project, we did it together. And if needed, he happily took the mic, made us laugh, and reminded us that whatever we were doing was important, that we were important, and that doing it together was more fun. My favorite memories of Stan always include laughter, food and kindness,” said staff member Jon Abels.

Staff member Erika Hanzely-Layko worked with Paskoff on the Internal Communications Committee for almost 16 years.

“I have described Stan as a central cog in the ICC that had wands of love, laughter and fun radiating from it. There is an engineering term for that central cog – the “sun gear” – and all the “planets” revolve around it. I like to think of Stan as our sun gear – the golden, shining center of the Sanford School,” she said.

Paskoff was also front and center as Sanford entertainer, using his theater skills honed throughout his life, including Raleigh Little Theatre. If there was a talent show, he had a song ready. One colleague said: “Stan’s rendition of Popular from Wicked will remain my favorite.” When the end of the year approached, Paskoff took to the stage at Sanford. For years, he served as the emcee of the winter holiday party with co-host and faculty member Deondra Rose.

                                                                                                                           


'Stan made sure the school had a heart'

“How could there be one favorite story when Stan was always present in some kind and wonderful way? Stan made sure the school had a heart,” said faculty member and former Dean Kelly Brownell.

Paskoff believed in community building, at work and in all aspects of his life, which included his active involvement and leadership at Judea Reform Congregation. He eagerly shared his pride in his family, which included his wife, two children, and, as of 2023, his first grandchild.

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Stan in ballcap standing with two others seated
"Stan brought us together. Whether it was to share a meal, have some fun, or volunteer our time on a service project, we did it together."

“As soon as I was expecting another baby, Stan quickly connected with me to determine a date for the [committee] to throw a baby shower. This made me feel that my colleagues, especially Stan, cared beyond my role at Sanford. After our daughter was born, Stan shared with me that he was going to be a granddad soon, and I was so excited for him. I saw him shortly after his grandbaby was born, and I remember that he was beaming with pride,” said staff member Mollie LoJacono.

Paskoff was a computer expert, community builder and a culinary whiz, earning the top prize in the annual Sanford Thanksgiving dessert competition multiple years.

His love for competition included sports – Duke basketball especially. After 20 years on the waiting list, he finally had the opportunity to purchase a pair of season tickets, which he immediately did and renewed annually. As a graduate of NC State, Paskoff had room in his huge heart for both teams.

The competitive streak wasn’t limited to just basketball and baking; one of his particular points of pride was teaching the Sanford community to spot and report email scams sent by Duke’s OIT to test the system.

While IT manager was his job, perhaps two words summarize his actual title at Sanford: loving teacher.

His key lesson: care for one another.

“Stan is a human being who shows us all how to be better human beings to each other through service and caring and community,” said staff member Kim Krzywy.

Faculty member Kristin Goss added: “Some people are great colleagues, doing excellent work and treating everyone with respect and dignity. Some people do all that and more; they become the soul of the community they serve. Stan was that person: the soul of the Sanford community. We often say that what holds us together is our shared mission of educating future generations, and indeed this is true. Stan played a great role in this mission, as I know from my days as a Sanford MPP student all those years ago.”

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Stan leaned back in black and white photo
Stan Paskoff served at Duke University for 43 years.

“The lives he touched and the changes he fostered are impossible to calculate. Stan was the first person you met at Sanford. He connected you to your hardware, email, phone, and your new family. Through his dry wit and endless compassion, he created an endearing gateway to Sanford for thousands of faculty, staff and students. Every award we received, every book we wrote, every life-changing policy that came from the Sanford School of Public Policy in the last 43 years was empowered in some way by Stan,” said staff member Matt LoJacono.

On Feb. 1, Sanford joined in a celebration of Paskoff’s life at Judea Reform Congregation. Read Dean Kelley’s remarks from the service below.

Stan is survived by his wife, Penny, son Sam, daughter Laura (Jeremy), grandson Dazen, brother Paul (Debbie), sisters-in-law Susan Bochman (Bob) and Mary (Tommy) and many nieces and nephews.  

In lieu of flowers, consider making a donation to Meals on Wheels in his name

A Sanford celebration of Stan Paskoff’s life is being planned for this spring.

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Stan Paskoff was the the longtime co-chair of Duke Sanford School of Public Policy's Internal Communications Committee (the ICC) which organizes fun and care for the entire community.

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Dean Kelley’s remarks – Feb. 1 Service

Dear friends and family of Stan. Thank you for the opportunity to share with you what Stan meant to the Sanford School of Public Policy. Stan was with Duke for 43 years, and many of those he spent as manager of computer support services. He managed the helpdesk and took care of everyone’s computing needs. He did software training, maintained the intranet, our list serves, and much more. But he was particularly passionate about one thing: making sure we protected ourselves from all those malicious emails and thwarting phishing attempts. Duke ranked schools on how well they performed, and one might even say Stan showed a competitive streak! 

So that is what Stan’s job was at Sanford. But that is not WHO Stan was. He could have stopped performing his job functions well, but that is not how Stan saw his job. 

Since his passing, countless people at Sanford have recounted how he was the first to welcome them. How he didn’t just assist them with their IT setup; he welcomed them to Sanford. He would stop by daily for the first week to make sure they were OK. He would crack jokes and exude warmth and joviality. People commented that Stan never got cross with anyone. And think about that. He worked with computers that were always acting up! 

But Stan did not stop at just doing his job and doing it in a friendly manner. 

Stan was the glue that held our community together. People have called him the heart of Sanford. Stan organized our community for volunteer opportunities, such as Meals on Wheels, and cleaning up the camping gear after the basketball games to make sure it went to a good cause. He was the one who made sure we celebrated Thanksgiving, the holidays, and new babies. That we cared for those who were ill and showed love for those who were mourning. When he was interviewed for the Presidential Medal that he won at Duke about 10 years ago, Stan shared that one of the things he had always dreamed of doing was stand-up comedy. Well, at Sanford Stan did that. Every year at our holiday luncheon, he and Deondra Rose made all of us laugh with their routines. Sometimes they were even funny! All of this is to say: Stan created our community. Stan was our community. 

Upon his passing, we held a moment of silence for Stan at Sanford on the lawn between our buildings. People came out in droves. The circle was so large that people were spilling over to the patio. Many people drove in to join the moment even if they were remote that day. This is because of all that Stan was and did that technically had nothing to do with his job.

Stan set an example for all of us that what is most valuable is not the official things we accomplish in our lives. It is not what we can put on a CV. It is how we do what we do, it is WHO we are. Stan showed that we create our vocation in the approach we take to our lives.

There is only one real way for me to sum up Stan, your father, husband, friend, and colleague:

Stan loved. 

Stan was loved. 

Stan remains loved.

In Memory: Stan Paskoff