Iona mourns loss of devoted, longtime computer science professors

Margaret Dougherty, Editor-In-Chief

The Iona community received tragic news on the afternoon of Thursday, Sep. 2. In a campus-wide email, President Seamus Carey announced that Professors Ken and Fran Bailie “did not make it home after teaching their classes last night” due to the flooding and powerful surges of Hurricane Ida. The husband and wife were long-time professors of computer science at Iona College who had taught classes on the evening of Wednesday, Sep. 1 as the storm quickly worsened. According to Greenwich Time, Harrison police received a report of the missing couple from Rye Brook, NY at 1:45am the next morning and their car was shortly thereafter found. It was confirmed Sept. 2 that Ken Bailie, 78, passed away, while Fran Bailie, 76, was found deceased on Sept. 6. 

As the chair of the computer science department, Fran Bailie dedicated her career to helping students find their passion and go on to have successful lives after graduation. Fellow computer science professor Dr. Smiljana Petrovic said that Fran was both a mentor and a friend. 

She was kind and supportive, always available to listen and help,” Dr. Petrovic said. “I admired Fran and learned so much from her. She inspired me to be better, professionally and privately.”   

Computer science professor Dr. Paolina Centonze agreed that Fran was a woman of great faith whose charisma, dedication and optimism made her not just an excellent department head, but a true friend. 

“She remembered everyone’s birthdays and personally baked birthday cakes so we could all celebrate in the office,” Dr. Centonze said. “Every time one of us had a career or personal achievement, she organized a celebration.” 

Computer science professor Dr. Lubomir Ivanov calls Fran the “soul of the department,” and says that her impact extended far beyond the classroom. 

“At the annual CS alumni event, students often share their experiences and express their love and admiration for Fran,” Dr. Ivanov said. “All that is a mark of life well lived – a life that made a difference.”  

Ken Bailie was a longtime executive at IBM before also beginning to teach at Iona roughly a decade ago, according to the Journal News of the Lower Hudson Valley. Dr. Ivanov remarks that Ken was not only one of the kindest souls he had ever met, but also an incredible teacher. 

“His students often talk about how Ken managed to make the most difficult concept easy to understand and even interesting – even though many did not have interest in computer science,” Dr. Ivanov said. “Many of our recent students were inspired to pursue computer science as a major and a career after being inspired by Dr. Ken Bailie.” 

His students admired his kindness and willingness to go above and beyond to help, and fellow professors learned a lot from him as well.  

“I attended some of his classes to improve my teaching skills,” Dr. Centonze said. “Since then, my teaching strategy improved.” 

The couple shared a special love between them, and they extended their hearts to everyone.  

“They were so synchronized as a couple, always doing things together and supporting each other,” Dr. Petrovic said. “They were proud of their children and grandchildren, and they kept their family above everything. But they opened their doors and made many feel like a part of their family.” 

Although Fran and Ken Bailie are gone, their legacy will continue to live on in the Iona community. 

“As we mourn the loss of Fran and Ken Bailie, it’s important to focus not on the tragedy of their passing, but to celebrate the wonderful, meaningful lives they lived,” Dr. Ivanov said. “They were – and continue to be – an inspiration to all of us, who will carry on their legacy.” 

Following the news of the tragedy, Iona College announced several events being held to honor their legacies. On the afternoon of Sept. 3, a prayer vigil was held for the Bailies led by Brother Kevin Devlin at the Blessed Edmund Rice Chapel. Members of the community joined together to support each other in this time of mourning. The Sunday evening mass at Holy Family Church on Sept. 5 was dedicated to the Bailie family. Additionally, Father Gerald Mulvey held a quiet reflective hour in Burke Lounge on Sept. 7, the same date that would have been the couple’s 53rd wedding anniversary. 

The Ionian staff extends their condolences to the Bailie family and the Iona community.