Giants of the Past

Joe Zoric

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Giants of the Past

Joe Zoric

Professor Emeritus

Summer 2021 | Tom Sofio

In This Article

At this year’s graduation ceremonies, Professor Joe Zoric lined up as usual at the front of the faculty procession, holding the ceremonial mace. First place is reserved for the senior faculty member, a privilege Zoric held for six years and relinquished when he retired in May after 50 years of teaching economics and business courses at Franciscan University.

“When I started, I didn’t think I’d be here 50 years. But once I hit 40 years, I figured I could last to 50,” he says.

In that time span, Zoric taught 19 courses to untold thousands of students, championing the benefits of the free market system. He also served as director of the MBA Program, led the Students in Free Enterprise club for 25 years, and became the go-to economic expert for the local media.

Upon his retirement, the Board of Trustees elevated Zoric to the rank of professor emeritus, a distinction granted to only five other faculty members.

His storied career began on a rather inauspicious note, when he arrived at the then-College of Steubenville in 1971 at age 23, with a master’s from Ohio University.

Always strong in math, he really wanted to work in a bank, but there was a recession going on and the banks weren’t hiring.

“Ed Kelly, founder of Franciscan’s Business Program, said he hired me to teach economics because I lived nearby. I grew up in Martins Ferry,” says Zoric, with a hint of humor.

“In the early years, I wasn’t much older than the students. The first day in class, I worked off notes on a legal pad. After 20 minutes, I ran out of things to say,” he says.

In later years, he never used notes and never ran out of things to say.

Zoric says he fell in love with economics after taking ECON 101, saying, “It’s a way to study how people live their lives.”

The writings of Milton Friedman, especially his 1962 book Capitalism and Freedom, often found their way into his lectures.

In the 1970s, the future of the College was in doubt, and things didn’t immediately turn around when Father Michael Scanlan, TOR, became president.

“I give Father Mike a lot of credit for staying the course and taking us from a regional school without an identity to a world-class, Christ-centered University.”

A red binder in Zoric’s office is filled with well wishes from former students. One that stands out is from Vilius Lapas ’96, a student from Lithuania who came to Franciscan to study theology.

“Being exposed to the concepts of free economics was so exciting after being raised and brainwashed by never-ending propaganda about Marxism/Leninism!” he wrote.

Lapas eventually went to law school and now works for the federal judiciary.

In addition to what he taught them about floating exchange rates and the concept of comparative advantage, students will best remember Zoric for his ubiquitous bow tie.

“I can’t remember when I started wearing them, but once I started, I never stopped,” he says.

Not fully retired, Zoric will continue to teach online courses and spend time in the garden with his wife, Ginny, who worked at Franciscan for 25 years and with whom he celebrates 50 years of marriage this year.

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