Richard T. Antoun, Ph.D.
Richard (Dick) Antoun, beloved husband, father, brother, grandfather, teacher, mentor and friend, passed away tragically on December 4, 2009. Dick is survived by his wife, Roz Antoun (Vestal, NY); his son, Nicholas Antoun (Princeton, NJ), his daughter-in-law, Nicole; Nicholas' mother, Elize Botha-Antoun; and his sisters, Jane Antoun Cartelli and Linda Miller; Roz's children, Dusty (Debbie) and Chuck (Lisa) Blechman; his grandchildren, William Antoun and Ellie, Max and Jay Blechman; and many other family members, friends, colleagues and students. Dick was born in Worcester, Massachusetts on March 31, 1932, the first child of Dr. Taft and Nelly Antoun. The family moved to nearby Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, and Dick spent his early years enjoying adventure radio programs (e.g., Jack Armstrong and Captain Midnight), playing baseball in the neighborhood field, and following the Boston Braves and Red Sox, the latter of which became a lifelong passion. Dick graduated from Shrewsbury High School in 1949 where he was an enthusiastic member of the debate team. Dick attended Williams College, where his interests in politics, leadership and conflict resolution were nurtured and began to blossom. Following his graduation from Williams in 1953, he completed a Masters' degree from Johns Hopkins University in International Relations. While at Johns Hopkins, an interest in the Middle East, fed in part by the origins of his family in Lebanon, came into focus. He pursued that interest by entering a Ph.D. program at Harvard University in Anthropology and Middle Eastern Studies, which he completed in 1963. His doctoral research was based on fieldwork in the village of Kufr al-Ma, Jordan, which he would return to throughout his professional life. In 1963, Indiana University gave Dick his first professional post, and he taught there as a professor of anthropology until 1970, at which time he joined the SUNY Binghamton faculty. Through his years at SUNY, Dick devoted himself to teaching students, both graduate and undergraduate, tirelessly marking papers and meeting with students for individual dialogue. He directed the completion of at least eight doctoral theses and served on the dissertation committees of numerous other students. He served as President of the Middle East Studies Association and was a visiting professor/scholar at Manchester University, the American University of Beirut, the University of Chicago and Cairo University. Throughout his professional life, he pursued his intellectual interests in politics, religion and conflict resolution. He sought to examine how Middle Eastern societies resolved conflicts on a local level through tribal customs and to engender understanding of controversial topics, such as fundamentalism, through cross-cultural analysis. He published 6 books, including "Muslim Preacher in the Modern World" (Princeton 1989), and over 30 articles. On the day before he passed, he completed revisions on an article regarding the lifecycle of athletes, which combined his passions for social anthropology and sports. While pursuing a full academic career, Dick also had a rich family life. He was a devoted father to Nicholas, calling encouragement at his Little League games, taking him to Fenway Park and discussing politics, sports and history throughout their life together. He was also a wonderful husband and supportive and encouraging best friend to Roz. At home, Dick mastered the art of cooking, lovingly preparing rice, beans and lamb and baba ganooge for Roz to enjoy. He loved their walks through the hills of Vestal, treasuring those quiet times to talk and be together. He enjoyed art films, going to a show, socializing with friends and picking out a delectable piece of pumpkin pie from the bakery for dessert. He particularly relished his summertime visits to the family home on Cape Cod, where he would spend time chatting with sisters, nephews and cousins on the beach and taking long swims in the ocean. In the last decade of his life, Dick reduced somewhat his commitment to academics and increased his activities in the local community. He was an active member of the Unitarian Universalist Church on Riverside Drive in Binghamton and participated in many inter-faith discussions. Continuing his deep belief in the non-violent resolution of conflict, he was an active participant in the Peace Action group. He also continued to share his knowledge of the Middle East as a lecturer at the Lyceum. In his last days, Grandpa Dick was able to spend Thanksgiving playing with his grandchildren, which was his greatest joy.
A memorial service will be held on Friday, December 11th, at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Binghamton, 183 Riverside Drive, Binghamton, NY 13905. Visiting hours will be from 11:30-12:30 and the service will begin at 12:30. Expressions of sympathy in memory of Dick may be made to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Binghamton (UUBC) to support interfaith programming or the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse (CHOW).
Published in Press & Sun-Bulletin from Dec. 7 to Dec. 8, 2009.