Anton Joseph Vishio Sr., a much respected Gilman School Latin and Greek teacher who served for 45 years, died of cancer Oct. 27 at Gilchrist Hospice in Towson. The Towson resident was 81.
“Gilman has lost a legend ... He was a teacher, coach, scholar, friend, and mentor for so many, myself included,” said John E. Schmick, a former Gilman Headmaster. “Anton was a true Classical scholar, and students left his classroom with a love for Classics and most importantly a love for him. He simply had ‘the touch,’ that intangible quality that separates the good teachers from the great.”
Born in North Philadelphia, he was the son of Ferdinand Vishio andEva Hilger. He was the first in his family to graduate from college.
He received his bachelor’s degree from La Salle University and a master’s degree from Ohio State University.
“It was quite a transition for someone from a North Philadelphia neighborhood to take a job at private school like Gilman,” said his son, Anton J. Vishio Jr. “In a letter from Ludlow Baldwin, the Gilman headmaster who hired him, ... [he] commented on how central a faculty member at Gilman he was... It showed how quickly he had bridged the distance between North Philadelphia and prep school Baltimore. He had found a way to turn his innate brashness to good use, via humor, as a way to connect people of very different backgrounds.”
He joined the school’s faculty in 1965 and taught Latin and Greek classics for more than four decades.
“Anton came to Gilman in 1965 at the urging of then Headmaster Ludlow Baldwin,” said the school’s former headmaster, Mr. Schmick. “It was with a handshake that he received his first offer to teach, and for the next 45 years, despite all the urging and multiple requests from the business office, he never signed a contract; just held out his hand and shook on the deal with five successive headmasters. His word was his bond.”
Mr. Schmick said that Mr. Vishio began a school tradition when Latin students in the lower classes made chariots which were pulled by friends in races around the track that would rival scenes from “Ben-Hur.”
“He was fond of verbal word play, “ said his son Anton. “His classroom was full of laughter.
“To the young students, Anton Vishio was God and man,” said Charles Duff, a former student. “He seemed really other than human to them. As they grew and matured, they saw the deeply human side to him. He could be a tough guy and athletic. Hands down, he was the quickest standup comedian I’ve ever known.”
Mr. Duff also said, “He was deeply knowledgeable. He was funny and serious and kept learning all his life. He had a wider range of good qualities (than) anyone I’ve ever known. He was warm and humble.”
“What started as a one-year stint turned into an illustrious career spanning four-and-a-half decades, during which he served the Gilman community in a variety of roles,” said his daughter, Miriam Vishio. “He was head of the Classics Department for 44 years,dean of faculty, Gilman Upward Bound teacher, basketball coach and coordinator of many community service initiatives in the greater Baltimore area.”
Mr. Vishio received the Edward T. Russell Chair, an honor awarded annually to a distinguished faculty member.
Family members said that teaching was his passion.
“His quick wit, droll sense of humor, and ability to bring to life the writings of Vergil, Cicero, Catullus, Plato, and Xenophon endeared him to the high school students he taught,” said his daughter, Miriam.
She said her father’s mastery of the English language and his encyclopedic knowledge of etymology helped students conquer the SATs.
He also worked with his students to impart the importance of giving back to others through volunteer work. His daughter said he led efforts to support the Special Olympics and to serve the homeless and needy at Paul’s Place and Our Daily Bread and through food, clothing and toy drives to benefit Echo House.
He also developed Operation Green Grass, a weekly inner city youth athletics and mentoring program at Gilman.
He retired in 2010 and traveled, collected stamps and coins and solved crossword puzzles.
“But his favorite pastime during retirement was attending his grandchildren’s recitals, performances, school events, and games,” his daughter said. “He was a bibliophile and jazz and classical musical aficionado, and was renowned for his collection of rare and limited edition books and vinyls.”
A Memorial Mass will be held at 11 a.m. Nov. 6 at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, 5200 N. Charles St., where he was a member. He was also a member of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church.
A memorial service also is being planned for the spring.
His wife of 48 years, Patricia Ann Myers, a homemaker and Gilman school librarian, died in 2014.
Survivors include two sons, Anton Vishio Jr. of Toronto, Canada and Alexander Vishio of Dallas; three daughters, Krista Vishio of Silver Spring, Eva Martire of Wilmington, Delaware and Miriam Vishio of Rockville; and nine grandchildren.