By: Karina Valdes
Paul Nagel, Jr., A.B, ’50, a beloved professor emeritus and alumnus passed away on Dec. 26, 2018. He is survived by his wife of 66 years, Margery, A.B. ‘50. He was 92 years old.
Paul Nagel, Jr. taught at the University of Miami for almost 50 years as a professor of film, radio, and television. He started teaching at the university in 1950 while he was still in the United States Army Air Forces after World War II.
“He went there [University of Miami] on a veteran’s scholarship, and in his last semester to graduate, he was asked to take over the course he was in. He said he hadn’t taken the course yet and they said ‘Well look at the next page in the book and teach and stay until the end of the semester.’ So, instead of staying until the end of the semester, he stayed for almost 50 years,” said Margery Nagel.
Teaching in the Radio and Television Department at UM in the 1950s was an exciting time. WTVJ had signed on the air in 1949 and that same year began collaborating with the Radio and Television Department to telecast live student productions from the station’s downtown studio facilities. Nagel was involved in writing, directing, and acting in many student productions for the station. During that time, Haline Urban Gregory was double majoring in drama and radio/TV and took Nagel’s classes in writing and acting.
“He directed a half-hour production of Beauty and the Beast live in the then WTVJ one room studios. He wrote and directed the play and I was Beauty. I was one of hundreds of students he inspired, who over the many years he taught, went on to be successful in their profession,” said Gregory.
In 1958, Nagel was a program coordinator in the Radio-Television-Film Department. That academic year, the department aired seven television series and four radio series, producing programs for WTVJ, WCKT and WTHS.
Aside from teaching, Nagel spent his time acting, writing, producing, and directing. On July 29, 1990, it was written in the South Florida SunSentinel that Nagel “has found time to write more than 1,000 documentaries and recently sold a mini-series to actor Bob Hoskins.”
Paul Lazarus, III, professor emeritus and former program director for motion pictures, now known as the Department of Cinema and Interactive Media, remembers Nagel as a “fine actor who was active in local theatre and was often cast in films shot in the Miami area.”
“A favorite story in the School was when he appeared in the trailer to Absence of Malice in a scene with its star, Paul Newman. Regrettably, the scene was cut from the picture, and thereafter the film was known as Absence of Nagel. He took it all in stride with his customary good humor,” said Lazarus.
Dick Lobo, A.B. ’58, retired director of the International Broadcasting Bureau, recalled how Nagel’s approach to teaching prepared him for a career in broadcasting.
“Professor Nagel was a smart, no-nonsense, reality-based professor who provided me with invaluable lessons about the practical side of the business we were preparing to enter. He was a witty, gum-chewing, brutally honest, but caring and sympathetic member of a small, but distinguished faculty. He and his wife Margery were always available, offering wisdom, advice, counsel and good cheer,” said Lobo.
According to Nagel’s wife, Margery, what Paul loved most about teaching was “lighting sparks in his students that would inspire them to go on and do something he felt they should investigate as a life’s admission.”
He would introduce students to alumni working in the industry in the hopes they would form a network and help each other through their careers.
“He liked to get the students to intern at a place that would interest them. He liked very much them coming back to him and saying ‘thank you Professor Nagel, I got a job and I can have an intern come down now’,” said Margery.
Nagel retired in the Fall of 1997, but he never stopped teaching.
“He didn’t actually retire, they kept asking him to come back and teach a seminar, or in the summer come and teach a three month course. So he would fill in during the summer. He liked to teach and liked to do jobs, and the more freedom he had, the more things he would get to do freelance, which he loved,” said Margery.