Stepping into John Arthur Café feels like stepping into a quiet corner of a busy city. Though there is life and motion outside on the Spine, the coffee shop has a soothing, tranquil atmosphere. The cafe serves as a place where students and professors alike can hang out between classes. Some come to study, while others enjoy a cup of coffee and relax on a sofa.
Named after the late Binghamton University philosophy professor John Arthur, the cafe stands both as a tribute to and a gift for him. Arthur died in 2007 after a yearlong fight with lung cancer. But before his passing, Arthur spent a great deal of time outside the classroom speaking with his students.
“I think he would have liked [the cafe] … the reason he has a cafe named after him is he thought the most important thing to do was to go to cafes, drink coffee, and it was especially important to him to go to cafes and drink coffee with students and talk about philosophy,” said Eric Dietrich, a good friend of Arthur and professor of philosophy at BU.
Dietrich described Arthur as a brilliant and beloved professor, with a quick laugh.
“He was an intense teacher, though,” Dietrich said. “His courses were hard. I think students loved him.”
Arthur was the director of the philosophy, politics and law department at BU. Not only did he create the interdisciplinary major, but he also authored three books and co-edited more than eight, one of which, “Morality and Moral Controversies,” is a leading introductory textbook in moral and political philosophy in the United States today.
Now the cafe offers a relaxed and open environment for students to talk, study or just grab a bagel. Situated conveniently in the Fine Arts Building, only steps away from New University Union and Glenn G. Bartle Library, it serves as a great place to meet people on campus.
Duncan McInnes, a senior double-majoring in graphic design and Spanish, has worked at the cafe since last semester.
“Even before I started working here, it was my favorite place on campus, like I came here every day so I figured I might as well work here, since I was here all the time,” McInnes said. “I think it’s the best place to study also.”
Sean Clarke, a sophomore majoring in political science, also works at the cafe and sees it as a space where education and social activity converge.
“It’s a great place that fosters education through social connections and [has] great deals on coffee,” Clarke said.
Covering one wall is a mural of a cafe on a busy sidewalk. The painting shows people talking and eating at tables sheltered from the sunlight under green umbrellas. This image of students relaxing and discussing mirrors the feel of the cafe on any given day and seems to be exactly what Arthur would have wanted.