Despite his status as professor emeritus within Binghamton University’s anthropology department, Richard Antoun — whom colleagues described as a “peacemaker” — spent more time in his office than many full-time faculty members.
Now, the space he frequented so often is dark, a few stems of purple flowers stand outside his door and those who knew him are not only grieving, but working through the irony of Antoun’s violent passing.
Antoun, 77, was stabbed to death Friday afternoon, and transported from Science I, where the incident took place, to Wilson Memorial Hospital.
“Everybody knew what a wonderful, wonderful man he was, full of life and joy that he shared with others,” said Robin Barron, assistant to the chair of the anthropology department.
In the waiting room to Barron’s office, baked goods surrounded a sheet of paper naming Antoun a scholar, friend and teacher. It read, “Eat something good, and remember a good man.”
Barron said she wanted to keep her comments to a minimum, but when asked if she needed to add anything, she just said one thing:
“I’m going to miss him.”
H. Stephen Straight, a professor of anthropology and linguistics, will miss him too. Straight and Antoun both joined the department in the fall of 1970.
“He’s the colleague I’ve known the longest,” Straight said Monday, adding that his longtime coworker was friendly, generous and kind.
Straight said that in a department that has a history of being at odds with itself, Antoun always found an amicable solution, and tried to help people come together. He said this tendency reflected in Antoun’s scholarly work too, which focused on comparative religion and symbolic systems, fundamentalist religions and the promotion of understanding and respect rather than hatred and violence, among other things.
“We would be doing ourselves a good favor to remember him as the generous, loving, peacemaking person as he was, and not let the manner of his passing lead to thinking bitter thoughts,” Straight said.
Both University President Lois DeFleur and State University of New York Chancellor Nancy Zimpher released separate statements through e-mail expressing their sympathy to Antoun’s family, colleagues and friends.
Antoun’s wife declined comment Monday.
A Facebook group dedicated to the late professor’s memory boasted more than 1,500 members Monday.
A memorial service is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. on Friday at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Binghamton, where Antoun was a member. Faculty members in the anthropology department said that an on-campus vigil would be held in Antoun’s memory in the spring.
— Anju Nattanmai contributed to this report.