Sharjah: Tears were shed as crowds of students and professors at the American University of Sharjah came together to light candles in memory of a professor who was run over by a motorist while he was cycling on Monday night (March 2) outside the university campus.
Dr Richard Gassan, 56, Associate Professor of History at AUS, and his friend were instantly killed Monday evening while they were practicing for a cycling event set to take place this weekend in Ras Al Khaimah.
Gassan is survived by his mother, Martha Oehler, and his elder brother Larry Gassan.
In a statement released by the university, AUS Chancellor Dr Björn Kjerfve said His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member, Ruler of Sharjah and President of AUS, made a personal call to convey his condolences to the AUS community and to Richard’s family on this irreparable loss.
“We are all in shock. People will remember Richard. He left us suddenly, but he left us his wit,” Dr Stephen Keck, Associate Professor in the department of International Studies, said as he struggled to find his words at the memorial held at the university on Tuesday.
“He had a passion for this department; he put this wonderful programme together because he cared. He cared about us, he cared about you, and he cared about the future,” he told the students and teachers.
Professor Gassan joined AUS in 2005 and was one of the scholars who started the history department at the university. He taught several history classes such as world history, and Japanese history, and was the head of the First General Assembly at the AUS MUN 2015 conference set to take place on March 5.
While flowers carpet his office door, Gassan’s memory as a professor, colleague and friend will live on said students as they paid him tribute by leaving emotional messages on a board placed in the department’s building.
Vernon Peterson, Professor and Head of the International Studies Department at AUS, told Gulf News, remembers Gassan as a great person, who was completely dependable, engaging to be around and had an excellent sense of humour. “He is irreplaceable,” he said.
Another professor, Dr Pia Anderson, Associate Dean of College of Arts and Sciences, said she will miss Gassan’s enthusiasm for teaching, his cheerful nature and witty jokes.
He will be remembered, she said, for his care and consideration for his students, colleagues and friends. “All who came to contact with Richard were impressed by his kindness and generosity,” Dr Anderson said.
The Administrative Assistant of the department, Flor Khattab, described Gassan as “one of the coolest guys she knows.” She recalled the many times he spoke about his mother and how much he loved her.
“We’ve lost one of the best people in this department,” said Khattab.
Gassan was also loved by his students and remembered by graduates who paid their condolences and expressed their sorrow on social media.
International Studies student Tamara Samir, 21, said her last memory of her professor was hours before the accident.
“I saw him at around 3pm, and he was jokingly trying to confuse me as I was counting papers for an upcoming AUS event. The last thing he did was give me a high five,” she said, as she wiped her tears away.
Another student, Fatima Al Sayed, said the day of the accident was her first and last official meeting with Gassan. “By the end of the day he was smiling as he was leaving for the day when he was asked “what's all of the happiness about” - he replied “I'm done, I'm leaving'.”