Late anthropology professor possessed a ‘heart of gold’

Christina Stavale

Mary Ann Raghanti first met Olaf Prufer when she was a graduate student who was intimidated to meet such a renowned scientist.

But he mentored her through graduate school and her first year as a professor. She now calls him her mentor, friend and colleague.

Prufer, professor of archaeology, died Sunday after working 41 years at the university.

“When I first met him, he was very intimidating,” said Raghanti, assistant professor of anthropology, “and as I got to know him, I learned he had a heart of gold.”

Raghanti knew him for eight years and remembers him as “one of the most tremendous men” she knew.

She said he had a wide range of knowledge, most notably in Ohio archeology.

University professor Owen Lovejoy said Prufer was the premier authority in Ohio archaeology for most of his life.

He said he remembers him “a thousand different ways.”

“He was a brilliant archaeologist, a passionate teacher,” Lovejoy said. “He was opinionated, but his opinions were always well-rationed. He was a very rational man – the most emotion I ever saw him display was always with bad science. That’s what annoyed him more than anything else in the world.”

But his talents did not end there. Lovejoy said Prufer spoke four or five different languages – he was fluent in German, able to converse in Spanish and knew Indian dialects. He was an expert in World War II history, an artist and a composer.

“I think it’s an enormous loss for the university and all his colleagues,” Lovejoy said.

Contact peditor Christina Stavale at [email protected].