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Ed Dinan remembered as compassionate, brilliant

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Ed Dinan remembered as compassionate, brilliant

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By Rachel Morford, news correspondent

Edward Dinan, a Northeastern accounting professor and father of six whose success in the telecommunications field earned him national renown, died of natural causes at his home in North Hampton, New Hampshire, on Feb. 16. He was 71 years old.

Dinan, known as Ed to friends, was a full-time lecturer in Northeastern’s accounting department since 2014, according to a Feb. 17 email circulated to NU accounting students. Though Dinan made a name for himself in the business world, teaching quickly became his passion.

“He loved the work. He loved his students, they were incredibly important to him,” said Matthew Dinan, Ed Dinan’s son, in a March 26 email to The News. “Whether it was staying after class to work with one that was struggling, or even personally calling in reply to an email, he did whatever he could to help them succeed.”

In a statement, the family highlighted his commitment as an educator by including an excerpt of his teaching statement for Northeastern.

“In terms of my approach to teaching, it is really based on elements of the Chinese proverb: ‘Teach me and I may remember; involve me and I understand,’ ” Ed Dinan wrote in the statement. “I truly believe that you must engage and involve students in their own learning process. Educators can make and do make a difference.”

Before he began teaching, Dinan enjoyed an industrious 32-year career in telecommunications, during which he served as vice president and chief financial officer at the cable television and telephone company NYNEX Cellular Services, vice president and chief financial officer at Worldwide Services Group and regional president for Verizon Northern New England. Dinan was known by his coworkers for his sharp mind and generous personality.

“You couldn’t find a nicer person,” said Celeste Viger, a former employee of Dinan’s at Bell Atlantic, which is now Verizon. “He was incredibly intelligent — very, very gifted — but not arrogant. He was approachable and had a great sense of humor. He put people at ease.”

Dinan and his twin brother Joseph Dinan were born in Boston on Feb. 21, 1946. Dinan graduated in 1964 from Bishop Cheverus High School in Portland, Maine. In 1968, he earned a degree in mathematics and accounting from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, where he was a presidential scholar.

After earning his undergraduate degree, he committed to postgraduate study in economic policy and macroeconomic theory as part of a Stanford University fellowship, until he was forced to leave his studies to join the US Navy.

“In those days there was a draft, and if you were from a poor state like Maine, you lost your deferment,” said Mary Dinan, Edward Dinan’s wife, in a March 27 email to The News. “When Ed joined the Navy and was selected to be an officer, it was a big deal. Only five percent of those who applied achieved that.”

During the Vietnam War, Dinan served as a lieutenant and surface warfare officer on the USS Oklahoma City from 1969 to 1972. Soon after returning to Massachusetts, Dinan met Mary née Leary whom he married in 1973. Together they raised six children. Mary said her husband had an incredible connection with his family.

“But where did he shine more than with his grandkids? He was a great dad, beloved by his kids, but his grandchildren adored him,” Mary Dinan said. “My grandson Austin always told his friends that ‘Popsie was his best friend.’ I have so many pictures of Ed with his grandkids.”

Four of Dinan’s grandchildren — Caitlin, 14; Austin, 13; Allie, 9; and Liam, 6 — gathered with their mother, Catherine Gagnon, to speak with The News over speakerphone about their grandfather.

“I just started high school, and I’ve been having a hard time in geometry,” Caitlin said. “And [my grandfather] used to come over and help me in math like no one else could.”

On one occasion, Dinan was unavailable to help Caitlin in person, so she took a photograph of the problem and sent it to him. Within three minutes, Dinan called to help, Caitlin said. When Gagnon needed help picking up Liam after school, Dinan not only obliged, but made it fun.

“Every day, after I got home from preschool and pre-K, he took me to Dunkin’ Donuts, and then McDonald’s, and then he took me to get the mail,” Liam said. “And then we went back to get my siblings.”

Beyond his teaching ability and devotion to his family, Dinan’s grandchildren loved him for his amazing sense of humor and play. Allie said he created one of her favorite games, which they called the “Maze Game” and involved Ed Dinan chasing her and her siblings around a maze they discovered in a park. Austin similarly enjoyed his grandfather’s goofy spirit.

“I was around 9 [years old], and I woke up one morning, and my grandfather — he just randomly called me a random name,” Austin said. “And he gave all of my siblings random names too. Philly, Bridget, Ralph…”

Mary Dinan said it was this silliness and humility that kept her late husband grounded, and ultimately what made him so successful.

“He golfed with presidents,” Mary said. “But you would never know that, talking to him. Because he wouldn’t tell you.”

One of the most recent photos Mary has of Ed shows him feeding his youngest grandson with a bottle. Their son Joseph had just returned from a retreat in Nepal the night of Dinan’s death, and it was this photograph that Joseph gave to the local Buddhist temple.

“The nuns at the monastery held special prayer services for Ed with that picture,” Mary Dinan said. “That picture has traveled around the world. It sums up for me the electric nature of Ed. How often does one receive such an honor?”

Shortly after his death, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who grew to know Dinan while he was serving as regional vice president of Verizon, issued a statement in tribute to Dinan’s accomplishments and life.

“Everyone who knew Ed Dinan realized how brilliant he was. We also knew that he was witty, thoughtful and kind,” Collins said in a Feb. 20 press release.

According to Mary Dinan, Ed Dinan earned numerous degrees throughout his life from a variety of prestigious institutions. He obtained a master’s degree in business administration from Boston University, completed an integrated international study at the Rottman School of Management through the University of Toronto, earned a master’s in technology and education policy from Harvard University and achieved master’s degrees in economic policy and applied economics from Northeastern.

Dinan taught at many institutions throughout his career, including Boston University, Fairleigh Dickinson University and Manhattan College. Viger, who worked alongside Dinan to develop the literacy-centric philanthropic organization Maine Reads, understood how professorship would attract Dinan’s interest.

“You learned from him. Even if he wasn’t your teacher,” Viger said.

Paulina Zaldivar, a second-year double majoring in marketing and communication studies, was impacted by Dinan’s devotion to not just concepts, but the development of his students. In her message to his Legacy.com guest book, Zaldivar explained Dinan’s commitment to his students, which she witnessed while taking his managerial accounting class.

“I have been in class with Dinan for two months, and have learned a lot from him, way beyond the scope of accounting,” Zaldivar said. “[I have learned] the importance of being a good person.”

Dinan’s students appreciated the care and generosity he showed them. Only one year after receiving tenure, he was nominated by students as a finalist for the 2015 D’Amore-McKim Business School Best Teacher Award. For many students, it was Dinan’s empathy that set him apart from other educators.

“I’ve never had a professor as wonderful and compassionate,” said Lara Kuscu, a former Northeastern student and pupil of Dinan’s. “I feel like I can talk about him as if I’ve known him forever, even though I really only had him for one semester.”

Among both colleagues and students, Dinan was well-liked and respected. Peggy O’Kelly, a long-time colleague of Dinan’s in the Northeastern accounting department, said Dinan had a strong ability to connect with his students.

“Ed knew how to explain complex concepts in a way that made them simple and easy to understand for his students,” O’Kelly said in a Feb. 27 email to The News. “He was always there to help. It was common of him to extend office hours for as long as students needed him.”

In a March 1 email to The News, Zaldivar emphasized the sentiment echoed by so many who left Dinan’s family condolences by highlighting his priorities as an educator.

“He encouraged us to learn, but more than that, he encouraged us to be good citizens,” she said. “Before our exams he would say, ‘If you do not do as well, it is not as important as it is to be a good person. That will take you forward in life: your connections.’”

To those who learned from him, Dinan brought happiness and confidence, Viger said.

“Ed was a giving and caring man. He would have treated a homeless person on the street with the same dignity and respect as the Queen of England,” O’Kelly said. “When he walked into the office he always carried a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eyes. His sense of humor and wit brought joy and laughter to those around him.”

On the night of his death, Ed Dinan enjoyed a quiet evening with his family, Mary Dinan said. Caitlin’s parents were skiing, and she was staying over for the night. As a gift to her grandfather, Caitlin had learned to sing the song “I Dreamed a Dream” from the broadway musical Les Miserables.

“Ed loved the Susan Boyle story,” Mary said, referencing the 2009 viral video clip from the reality show “Britain’s Got Talent.” “He loved that. He must have watched that stupid show a thousand times.”

That night, Caitlin sang to him again, while Ed, Mary and his daughter Courtney Dinan watched. Soon after, Caitlin’s parents facetimed Ed and Mary, and the entire family enjoyed a night of good humor and joy, Mary said. Ed Dinan would collapse later that night in front of Mary.

“Truly, even the way he passed was a miracle for him. He had no knowledge of it, nothing. He had no fear, no pain — nothing. I know, because I was there,” Mary said. “And he deserved that, because of the life he lived, and the students he taught.”

Dinan was preceded in death by his twin brother Joseph Dinan and his twin daughters Martha and Kelly Dinan. He is survived by his wife, Mary Dinan; his daughters Catherine Gagnon, Courtney Dinan, Molly Dinan and U.S. Navy Lieutenant Lauren Dinan-Lombardo; his sons Edward Dinan and Matthew Dinan; his brothers Peter Dinan, Thomas Dinan and Christopher Dinan; seven grandchildren and many in-laws, nieces and nephews.

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