Friends of Richard Role gather to celebrate his life, loves at weekend memorial service


Champagne bubbles were greeted by a bubbly smile from Richard Role that peered down from a giant projection screen as friends toasted the late professor.

“What I will miss most is that smile,” said Brian Kelly, an architecture professor from the University of Maryland who worked with Role.

Role, an architecture professor who worked with the Kent State Urban Design undergraduate and graduate program in Florence, Italy, died on June 21 after suffering a massive coronary. He was 47 years old.

A Chicago native, Role was a Notre Dame University and Cornell University graduate. He came to Kent State in 1993 and eventually became a permanent resident of southern Florence where he passed and is now buried.

A memorial service was held for Role on Saturday in the Auditorium Building.

About 50 students, alumni, faculty and friends attended the service and paid their respects to the man, who many said changed their lives.

“He gave me a better appreciation for living and where I live,” said Bryan Wahl, a 2000 master’s graduate whom Role taught. “He opened our eyes to seeing there is more than one way to do something.”

Charles Graves, professor of architecture who started working with Role in 1993, said there were several characteristics that made him stand above the rest.

“The key things about Richard were that he was very passionate about his students,” Graves said. “He really loved teaching, art and culture.”

But there was one thing that stuck out in everyone’s minds:Role’s love of Italian cuisine.

A slide show displayed pictures of Role in several restaurants around Italy. His favorite dishes were shown alongside him on tours with his students.

“He was so scholarly,” Wahl said. “We would see everything along the way. By the time we were done, we would know every great restaurant in Italy.”

After the slide show, Charles Harker, Graves, Kelly, David Hughes and Maurizio Sabini, all architecture professors who worked with Role, shared their favorite memories of him. Food, once again, was a subject of conversation.

La crAme and pasta did not overshadow Roles’ love for teaching and Rome