Popular Columbia Dean Dies After Being Hit By Car; Few Answers Available About Crash

Peter Awn, who served as dean of the Columbia School of General Studies for 20 years, died on Sunday, weeks after being hit by a car at 116th Street and Claremont Avenue.

Awn was walking home from the Columbia campus on Jan 25 around 7 p.m. when he was struck by a car, the Columbia Spectator first reported. He was listed in critical but stable condition at the time. Doctors at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital attempted to save his life. Asked on Monday for details about the crash, an NYPD spokesperson wrote that it was under investigation and no arrests had been made, but did not respond to requests for information about the circumstances of the incident. In crashes that result in serious injury or death, police often undertake extensive investigations before making final decisions about whether to charge someone.

Awn, a professor who studied Islamic religion and comparative religion, was dean of the School of General Studies — one of the Columbia University undergraduate schools — from 1997 to 2017. Under his leadership, the school expanded its enrollment of veterans, first-generation students and international students, the Spectator noted. Columbia President Lee Bolinger called him “one of the essential leaders of Columbia University‚Äôs modern era.”

His family says people who wish to honor him can donate to the Peter J. Awn Scholarship Fund.

NEWS | 7 comments | permalink
    1. Dixie Reinhardt says:

      I’m heartbroken to learn of Dean Awn’s passing. He is a legend at GS (General Studies)and the larger Columbia University family. He is much loved. God be with you Dean. You made all of your students proud to be Columbians!

    2. Aviva Zablocki says:

      A true champion for hundreds – if not thousands – in the Columbian community. Military veterans, the LGBTQ community, the professional dancers, the parents, the transfer students, the formerly incarcerated. Everyone who wanted a shot at something bigger got it under Dean Awn. We will continue to do great work in his honor.

    3. Michael Meskers says:

      Peter Awn was my first year French teacher way back in 1968-69 at Regis High School. At that time he was a Jesuit scholastic and would jokingly refer to himself at times as a “religious sacramental.”

      He was high energy and inspiring. I vividly remember, even now, fifty years later, how he made the class fun and infectious.

      He went on to contribute to the lives of so many students over the ensuing decades.


    4. Janet Chalmers says:

      Such sad news! But not unexpected if you have ever tried to cross the street at that corner coming together of two streets with no clear place allocated to pedestrians. I aways walk further down the block to get across.

    5. Kathleen says:

      How many drivers obey the 25 mph rule? This is such a sad disgrace. We mourn his loss.

    6. EagleEye says:

      Time to close Claremont to cars from 116th to 120th and name it after Dean Awn. Do you value your parking/”car squatting” spots more than a person’s life?

    7. wendy kaplan says:

      So, so sad. He will always remembered as a great teacher and
      fabulous mentor to students.