College of Business lecturer Chris Samfilippo taught marketing at UM-Dearborn — and around the world on behalf of the university — for 25 years. Samfilippo, a gifted teacher who kept in contact with students long after they graduated, said he wanted to teach for many more.
“I know he cared greatly about the students and they loved him in return,” said Professor of Marketing Aaron Ahuvia, a long-time friend and colleague of Samfilippo’s. “He told me that he had planned on teaching for another 20 years. When the cancer spread to his throat, I looked for technological alternatives that could help him speak in the classroom. Chris would have done anything to keep teaching. He was dedicated to his students.”
Samfilippo, who taught marketing courses from 1998 to summer 2023, passed away at home on Sept. 16. He was 67. Visitation will take place from 3 to 8 p.m. Friday at Weise Funeral Home, 7210 Park Ave., in Allen Park. A service will take place at the funeral home at 10 a.m. Saturday.
“I can’t even express what a hole his passing leaves in our lives. Chris was very much a part of everything here — creating courses, curriculum and running the discipline. He was an extremely talented marketing colleague and he was a friend,” Ahuvia said. “He was a major part of our lives outside of UM-Dearborn too. We’d watch football, go to dinner and spend time with each other’s families. He’s an amazing friend that I’ve had for 20-plus years.”
College of Business Class of 2006 graduate Brian Warneck said Samfilippo helped him become the professional he is today. Warneck has multiple Clio awards, which is a recognition for excellence in advertising. Now a digital production director at Doner, Warneck’s love of marketing started years ago.
Warneck can trace it back to the first semester of his UM-Dearborn freshman year: he was sitting in Samfilippo’s classroom. He said Samfilippo’s enthusiasm would draw the whole class into marketing strategy discussions that drew from real-life advertising examples.
“At the time, I was a bit of an introvert and didn’t always feel comfortable sharing my ideas. Chris encouraged us to speak up and he helped me shake that stage fright. He reminded us to not be intimidated by big titles or large audiences because we are all just people who are looking for connections and solutions,” Warneck said. “Chris also emphasized that marketing is not a one-time business transaction. It’s building a relationship and reputation over time. Chris lived what he taught. He’d always say hello in the hallway. He’d check in to see how someone is doing. He’d help you get to your next opportunity. I now make a conscious effort to do these same things, thanks to the example Chris set.”
Following graduation, Warneck returned to campus to present in Samfilippo’s classroom and worked with Samfilippo to organize tours at Doner for UM-Dearborn students interested in advertising and marketing careers.
In addition to the impact Samfilippo made in Michigan, he worked with students internationally. He lectured on relationship management in Uzbekistan, branding in Libya and supply chain management in Jordan. He also served as the director of UM-Dearborn’s International Summer Program in Management, an Italian-American exchange program with the University of Padua.
“Chris had a real sense of adventure and wanted to get out there and discover the world. He seized opportunities as they came along and saw these teaching experiences as a way to make a difference in someone’s life,” Ahuvia said.
Professional Lecturer of Marketing Tim Hartge said making a difference was central to Samfilippo’s mission. “It’s been wonderful to read all of the nice things people have said or written about him — all of it is true,” he said. “Chris was very genuine. He loved life and the people around him.”
Hartge said he and Samfilippo bonded over more than teaching. They both shared an interest in classic cars. And when Samfilippo had the chance to get a 1983 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce nearly a decade ago, Hartge encouraged him to buy it.
“It was a dream car for Chris. Just as he was in the throes of buying that car, he had gotten a cancer diagnosis. Chris wasn’t sure if he’d be able to enjoy it. But he took a chance and I’m glad he did. He went into remission and had nearly 10 years with that car,” Hartge said. “Chris and I went for rides with the top down, the music up and the wind in our hair.”
Hartge said Samfilippo lived his life to the fullest, has a wonderful family and left an impression on many lives. “Mine included,” Hartge said. “I don’t know why tragic things like this happen to such good people, but I do know that he lived out dreams and enjoyed the company of others with the time he had. Chris was an incredible person and we are all going to miss him.”
Article by Sarah Tuxbury.