John Peter Marschall
1933 - 2016
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John Peter Marschall

Sept. 21, 2016

John Peter Marschall passed away in his home in the early morning hours of September 21, 2016 after a long and determined fight with cancer. He was 82.

John was born on December 11, 1933 in Chicago, Illinois to Leonard and Clara Marschall. He attended St. Francis Xavier Grammar School in La Grange and then Fenwick High School in Oak Park where he excelled on the diving team. John then entered Fournier where he graduated from high school and studied engineering his first year of college.

John went on to receive his bachelor's degree in philosophy and physics from Loyola University, conducted graduate work in theology at the Viatorian Seminary in Evanston, and received his master's degree in history and philosophy at St. Louis University in 1961.

In 1963 and 64, John studied language and archival research in Rome, Louvain, Munich, London, Dublin, Paris and Grenoble before earning his PH.D. of history and constitutional law at Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. in 1965.

Suffice it to say, John had a love for learning that engaged him all of his life. He also loved to travel, taking many trips with friends and family to Europe. Prior to each trip, John would embark on a crash course in the language of the country to be visited. He took pride in engaging locals in their native tongue, whether it be French, Italian, Spanish or German. This reflected his deep respect for differences whether they be cultural, linguistical, religious or political.

Even in his final days, John was discussing theology and politics with friends, and when alone, was studying various wind speeds and directions using an ornamental weather vane outside his window. And his friends were many and varied, with some stemming from his early childhood.

In 1968 John was sent by the Catholic Church to serve at Our Lady of Wisdom in Reno, Nevada where he would help establish a Newman Center called The Center for Religion and Life in the hope of engaging university students as well as community members to think about religion in a richer way.

John grew spiritually and professionally during this time and soon determined that he had to change his role in the Catholic Church from priest to parishioner.

On July 22, 1972 he married Rita Cody who was with him from that day until the day he died, serving as his caretaker and his intellectual and life partner until the end.

In 1980 John went from being a part-time lecturer at the University of Nevada, Reno to serving as an Associate Professor in the History Department. He would go on to become an Assistant to the President and then Associate Vice President for Student Life.

John returned to full time teaching in 1994 until his retirement in 2002.

John loved teaching and the university. His final contribution to learning was to donate his body to the School of Medicine in an effort to advance knowledge.

Following retirement, John began compiling decades of his own research on Jews in Nevada and authored a book of that title that was published in 2008.

From the time he arrived in Reno, John was captivated by the area's outdoors. He loved the clear waters of Lake Tahoe and the mysterious beauty of the desert. He loved exercise and had a fierce sense of competition when it came to swimming, tennis, squash, sailing and golf, whether he was playing against others or against himself.

John's competitive spirit was present until his final days. He was not afraid of the end of his life, but was determined to squeeze as many seconds out of it as possible before conceding.

He is survived by his wife, Rita; sisters Carolyn (King) and Judy (O'Hara); son Peter (Kelly); daughter, Sarah Marschall-Niswonger (Rich), and grandchildren Emily and John Marschall-Niswonger.

A memorial service and celebration of life will be announced soon. For information email

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the John and Rita Marschall Family History Scholarship Endowment.(Checks can be made out to the UNR Foundation, Mail Stop 162, Reno NV 89557 or online at (Fund # 175564 in the subject line).

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in the Reno Journal-Gazette and Mason Valley News from Sep. 25 to Oct. 2, 2016.
Memories & Condolences
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11 entries
September 19, 2019
On this Anniversary we are grateful for the life of John Marschall, the legacy he left behind, and the beautiful memories we have and share. Miss you, John.
Patty Dickens
Patty Dickens
September 19, 2019
Thank God for the few like John Marschall who heard God's message and could actually interpret it for the rest of us in love in the order of Melchizedek. Blessings on your memory, John, and to your loved ones you left behind. Jane and Paul Fransioli
Jane Fransioli
February 5, 2017
My memories of John Marschall are rich and varied. I have good memories that suit a man who was good in all the varied aspects of his life. I was an altar boy at OLW and Fr Marschall was one of the priests at the time. He was patient, alert and had a quiet sense of humor.

When he left the priesthood for lay life his involvement with the church remained strong. That impressed while I was a teenager. It was a time of change in our parish. I remember he was on a liturgy team that played Jesus Christ Superstar on a Friday afternoon during lent. I went to that service and I and the others there felt electrified that elements of our faith were part of popular culture.

Decades later I would mention him in a text I wrote for an article. I sent him a copy.I was honored that he called me at home to discuss the article and his own memories of that time. He talked of his own research into the Jews of Nevada (that would later turn into a marvelous book .)His parting words were encouraging. Here he was-a Research Professor taking time out to encourage a humble Instructor. I was honored.

My sincere sympathies to his family and friends. He broke new ground with his life and many are richer because of his vision and faith.
Dan Noyes
September 30, 2016
We have appreciated John and Rita's important influence while we were at OLW on setting our directions in spirituality . Their clarity and peace with change during a tumultuous period helped guide us as young evolving spirits.
Paul & Jane Fransioli
September 28, 2016
Our condolences to mr. Marshal family he was a big part of our family too. On behalf of Bruno, Gloria and the rest of the Romero family... Paul Romero
Paul Romero
September 27, 2016
Dr. Marschall was one of the most entertaining, engaging professors at UNR. I was a History/Pre-Law major and took his class with no particular expectation.
Dr. Marschall taught me about History, about teaching, and about life. He showed his students his passion for history and the pursuit of noble things beyond our reach. He wore his heart on his sleeve and lived his life to the fullest. His classroom was always welcoming and filled with new knowledge and perspective. I enjoyed each and every day.
Little did I know that Dr. Marschall's influence would lead me to change direction and choose the profession of education. He showed me that it was acceptable to be yourself, share your passion for your field, and be vulnerable as well. I always knew I was in the presence of someone exceptional.
My deepest condolences to Peter, Sarah, and Rita. I know your loss is enormous. My only hope is for you to find comfort in knowing his life was such a gift to so many. Thank you for sharing him with us!
Very sincerely yours,
Diane Dibitonto Sumner
Diane Sumner
September 25, 2016
When "Father Marschall" arrived in Reno during my college days, he became an important part of my life and that of my family and friends at Our Lady of Wisdom Church. I was truly blessed to have him as a mentor and friend. His Sunday sermons, delivered in his gentle, persuasive tone, were truly unforgettable. Later, as a renowned UNR professor, he interviewed my mother-law, Ruth Dickens, along with so many others in the Jewish community, in preparation for his book about Jews in Nevada. After each visit Ruth would send him on his way with her famous chicken liver pate, which he could never resist!

John was a quintessential scholar with an energetic spirit, zest for the outdoors, and genuine ecumenical spirit. He will be sorely missed. My condolences to Rita, Peter, Sarah and their families.
Patty Carrico Dickens
September 25, 2016
John was one of the nicest people I had the pleasure of working with at the University, He was always respectful, gracious and thoughtful of other people and an all around wonderful person. RIP John.
Jim Jeffers, Jr.
September 25, 2016
Bunny and I remember John with great affection, having arrived in Reno in 1973. I once served on the Board of the Center and John once spoke early on at an Ecumenical Thanksgiving Service at Trinity Episcopal Church when I was Rector. We saw each other on occasion at Carmel Monastery. Our last contact was when he asked me to 'proof' his paper on the history of The Episcopal Church in Nevada.
We have kept him and Rita in our prayers during his illness and are grateful for our association with the gifted man he was.
Fr. Jim Jeffery
September 25, 2016
John was my supervisor for about ten years while I served as director of Fleischmann Planetarium at UNR. A better boss I never had.
We shared many interests outside of work, music being the most notable. We sang together in the UNR President's Barbershop Quartet. I recall many rehearsal sessions with the other guys in John's living room. He called on his knowledge of Gregorian chant to assist me in church choir work.
He was a fine man and I was privileged to call him friend.
Arthur Johnson
September 25, 2016
It was an honor to know John, to work with him on his projects, and to consider him a friend. I mourn his passing while celebrating his life and achievements. Best wishes to his family.
Ron James
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