Beloved Columbia Dean Dies of Injuries After Being Run Over

Police on Wednesday arrested the 24-year-old driver who hit and killed the former Columbia University professor and dean Peter Awn in January.
Police on Wednesday arrested the 24-year-old driver who hit and killed the former Columbia University professor and dean Peter Awn in January.

The former Columbia University professor and dean who was badly injured by a driver near the Morningside Heights campus last month died Sunday, the school announced today.

Peter Awn, most recently dean of the School of General Studies, had been in critical-but-stable condition in the neuro intensive care unit after he was run down by a driver on 116th Street on Jan. 25, the Columbia Spectator reported. Little else was known until Monday, when Columbia University President Lee Bollinger broke the news of his death to the entire community.

“Since his arrival on the Columbia campus more than four decades ago, no one has been a more beloved member of our community than Peter,” Bollinger said. “The grief we feel at his loss is overwhelming.

“This heartbreak is especially palpable for the General Studies community where, during his 20-year tenure as Dean, Peter came to personify the School’s character, its values, and its mission. In every way that mattered, he and the School were one. This unmatched legacy, in addition to his remarkable scholarship and teaching as Professor of Islamic and Comparative Religion, made Peter, without question, one of the essential leaders of Columbia University’s modern era.”

Bollinger spoke of Awn’s “rare gift” at making students feel that Columbia “was better for their presence.” Awn was dean of the General Studies school for 20 years before retiring in 2017.

He added “deepest condolences” to Awn’s surviving sisters Claudette Maraziti and Louise Crowley. The Spectator offered more details of Awn’s long career first as a religion professor and later as dean.

The NYPD did not release any information about the crash on the date of occurrence, which is typical of the agency when there is no death. A police spokesman did not have additional information on Monday night. No one has been charged in Awn’s death.

The area around Columbia University is a hotspot for crashes, likely owing to the high number of pedestrians at all hours of the day. Between January, 2017 and December, 2018, there were 61 total crashes in an area bounded by Cathedral Parkway, W. 120th Street, Amsterdam Avenue and Riverside Drive, resulting in injuries to 11 cyclists, 24 pedestrians and 33 motorists. There were 397 additional crashes that did not cause injuries to people.

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