MIDLAND PARK, N.J. — Mallomars, music and the superiority of mathematics were among the many memories being shared today of Leon Varjian, a Midland Park teacher who died suddenly on Tuesday.
“Leon was a creative genius and an extremely sensitive soul who always had his students' best interests at heart,” his brother, Richard Varjian, told Daily Voice. “We were shocked when called about his sudden death.”
The beloved teacher, who made math fun for generations of high school students, was a legend of sorts while a teacher's assistant at Indiana University in the early 70s.
“It’s hard to describe the impact of a person who appeared to take NOTHING seriously, and yet carried a great humanitarian inside his clown costume,” friend Sarah White told Daily Voice.
Varjian's trademark service with a side of silly was on display inside and out of the classroom. In addition to being class advisor for the Student Senate, he hosted an annual Super Bowl charity run, organized food, toy and coat drives for the less fortunate and was a driving force in raising money for a bench in memory of another math teacher, Matt Sayles, who died from cancer in 2011.
The "Panther Paws" advisor's teaching prowess eased a difficult and sometimes anxiety-provoking subject for many students.
“As someone with a learning disability, math was very tough for me," said 2013 MPHS graduate Tom Giordano, "but Mr. Varjian helped me through it every step of the way. He was such a brilliant man with a great outlook.”
Varjian's comedic timing was legendary, students recalled, especially at pep rallies, when chants of "Var-jian, Var-jian," could be heard from the stands in response to a call for volunteers for an athletic test.
"He would make a big show of coming down, taking off his jacket, and pretending to do complex calculations in his little notebook, MPHS Class of '91 graduate Christopher Bush told Daily Voice. "Everyone cheered and jeered.
“That was the thing about Mr. Varjian: He never seemed to do anything part-way. He was always all-in for math and for his students.”
TELL US: What makes you think of Mr. Varjian? Einstein, Zappa iCarly, Edward James Olmos, ShopRite, Saturday Night Live? Share your remembrances.
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