Late anthropology professor to be memorialized

Steven Bushong

Prufer thought of as forefather

In his class, Culture Conflict, the late anthropology professor Olaf Prufer described how people handle death in various societies. He found the typical American funeral unappealing and wished not to have one himself.

Tomorrow, people who knew him will gather at his favorite classroom in Lowry Hall, Room 143, at 1 p.m. for an informal memorial service, two months after his death.

“My husband loved teaching the introductory classes in the lecture halls, and that was the classroom in Lowry that could hold the most students,” Trina Prufer, his wife, said.

“We thought it would be a tribute to him to not have a funeral and to have a memorial service instead, to celebrate his life,” she said.

Prufer is considered by faculty as a forefather of the department of anthropology, a deeply missed cornerstone of the school, who had been present for 41 years.

Speakers will include professors Owen Lovejoy and Mark Seeman and avocation archaeologist Thomas Pigott. Prufer’s son, Keith Prufer, who is also an anthropologist at the University of New Mexico, will bookend the service. All attendees are invited to speak.

Prufer started teaching at Kent State in 1968, with a doctorate from Harvard University. He continued his career here until three weeks before his cancer-related death on July 27. He had been sick with multiple myeloma for several years.

“He always told me that when he teaches, he didn’t feel the pain,” assistant professor MaryAnn Raghanti said. “I think everyone agrees that he personally changed their lives. He was just a tremendous force.”

His research on Ohio’s pre-history made him one of the state’s most prominent anthropologists, publishing extensively and training several generations of Ohio archaeologists.

Contact enterprise reporter Steven Bushong at [email protected].