Duane L. Cipollini, a retired Baltimore County Public Schools mathematics department chair who acted in community theater, died of progressive supranuclear palsy Tuesday at Gilchrist Towson. The Pikesville resident was 82.
Born in Homer City, Pennsylvania, he was the son of John B. Cipollini, an engineer, and Arbutus E. Chilton, a homemaker. He was a 1958 graduate of Laura Lamar High School and served as class vice president his senior year.
He received a bachelor’s degree from what is now the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He later earned a Johns Hopkins University master’s degree.
Mr. Cipollini taught in Harrisville, New York, where he met and married Jane Andrews in 1965. They were both teachers.
He moved to Woodlawn in 1966 and joined the Baltimore County school system.
“[He] was one of my most memorable teachers from both high school and college. ... What really distinguished him from most teachers was that he treated us like adults and people and not just as students, and made personal connections that resonated with teenagers coming of age,” said Michael Greenspun, a former student.
“Mr. Cipollini’s sharpness and mastery of the material were clear, so even with his easygoing familiarity, Mr. Cipollini commanded complete respect and admiration. He particularly encouraged my love of math and motivated me throughout the year.”
Mr. Cipollini was also a math department chair for many years, wrote curriculum for Baltimore County Public Schools, worked with the gifted and talented program, and even directed some school plays.
“He loved teaching and being in the classroom,” said his son, Craig W. Cipollini. “He knew how to be personable and witty and at times showed a sarcastic sense of humor.”
He taught at Pikesville Senior High School for many years and served as mathematics department chair. He also taught at Catonsville High School, Loch Raven High School and Dumbarton Middle School.
“He was exuberant, always positive and extroverted. His students adored him. He was strict — but the kids wanted to be with him and please him,” said Joan Fowler, a Pikesville teaching colleague. “He was an asset to the school.”
His daughter Kerry Ahern said: “He was funny, clever and genuine. He had a loud, boisterous and contagious laugh. People were drawn to him. He was the center of attention in a room or party.”
He served as chairman of the Steering Committee for Middle States Evaluation, a member of the National Honor Society Advisory Committee and co-chairman of the graduation committee.
“He was a brilliant mathematician who was also talented in the arts,” said Susan Shilman Weinstein, a former student. “He inspired many of us to pursue degrees in math and science.”
Another former student, Scott Barshack, said: “Not only was Mr. Cipollini the sharpest dresser at Pikesville Senior High, but he was also a friend, mentor and therapist for many of us. This included accompanying us on our Friday night drives around Pikesville, participating in our school plays and guiding some of us to pursue high-level math in college.”
Mr. Barshack also said Mr. Cipollini was often available outside school hours to counsel students through difficult high school moments.
Robert Wenig, another former student, said, “From the first day of class, where he knew all of our names [I think he memorized the yearbook] — his teaching style was like a can’t-miss performance.”
Mr. Cipollini and his wife separated in 1981 and divorced in 1983.
He was a member of Milford Mill United Methodist Church and taught confirmation classes.
Mr. Cipollini was an active member of Baltimore’s community theater circles. He directed and appeared in plays and musicals.
He performed in “Bus Stop” and “42nd Street,” and created the role of Mortimer Brewster in “Arsenic and Old Lace.” He performed with the Heritage Players and at the former Catonsville Community College and Towsontowne Dinner Theater.
“He was a steady, dependable actor who was liked by the theater companies where he performed,” said F. Scott Black, who owned Towsontowne Dinner Theater and is a retired dean at the Community College of Baltimore County.
Mr. Cipollini often appeared in musical comedies alongside his three children.
He enjoyed solving crossword puzzles and was a devotee of 1950s and 1960s music. He was also a gardener.
After retiring from teaching, he worked in the production office of the HBO series “The Wire” for four years. He handled payroll for the company.
In 2005, he met Robert S. Makinen. They began dating, then married in 2011.
After the TV series finished production, Mr. Cipollini retired and moved to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, with his husband.
They lived there for several years before moving to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where they lived until moving back to Baltimore in 2020.
Survivors include his son, Craig Cipollini of Washington, D.C.; two daughters, Lori C. Perron of Arnold and Kerry Ahern of Phoenix in Baltimore County; a stepdaughter, Michelle Panek of North Carolina; a brother, John Cipollini of Philadelphia; and seven grandchildren. His husband, Robert Makinen, a federal worker, died in 2021. Their relationship, including a 2011 marriage, lasted 16 years.
Services are private.