The SUNY New Paltz community came together on Friday, March 1, to celebrate and honor the life of Peter Kaufman, professor of sociology, writer, scholar, activist, athlete, musician, and dear friend to hundreds of students and colleagues at the College.
The event was organized, at Peter’s request, as a celebration of life itself: not only a moment for processing a tragic loss, but also an occasion to tell stories, share laughter, sing songs and offer gratitude for life’s many gifts.
In the spirit of this celebration and the life that inspired it, we publish here some of the words and images that were shared by Peter’s family, friends, students and colleagues in his honor.
Please scroll to the bottom of this post to view video from the March 1 Celebration of Peter Kaufman.
“This is not a memorial service – this is a celebration. Peter was very explicit about this: He did not want to be eulogized. He wanted a celebration of life – not just his life, but life itself. That’s not to say there is no sadness here. Obviously this was a tragic loss. Peter was a special person to so many of us, and this is just very painful and very sad. But we’re going to do our best to celebrate the joy, the gift of having known Peter.” – Brian Obach, professor of sociology
“Today I will not even try to describe the gift that Peter was to me. How could I possibly capture all the love, beauty, dedication, silliness, gentleness, passion and adoration that we became together? Instead I will pay tribute to one small but highly significant part of Peter’s personality: his ability to see gratitude for all his good fortune, and the kind ways in which he expressed this to other people.” – Leigh Weaver, Peter Kaufman’s wife & partner of more than 30 years
“When I think about Peter, I remember the teenager who would run with me, and always adjust his pace so that he would never leave me behind. I think of the strong bond Peter had with his brothers, the way they would cackle with laughter, no more so than when I was the butt of jokes. I think of the strong network of loving and supportive friends and neighbors that he and Leigh developed in New Paltz. Toby and I referred to this network with affection and admiration as ‘their New Paltz family.’” – Barry Kaufman, Peter’s father
“Peter was not only a scholar and a teacher, but also an excellent athlete, with the mind, the sensibility and the stamina of an athlete. For more than a decade, Peter and I frequently rode bikes together, talking pedagogy, scholarship and lots of wonky bike trivia as we watched the asphalt pass below us. He was and still is a beloved friend and a paragon of a well-lived life, when sporting, when teaching, when talking about ideas.” – Thomas Olsen, associate professor of English
“We were Peter’s work family, and as with most families, we laughed a lot, we shared work a lot, we got frustrated a lot and, because we are sociologists, we discussed and debated everything under the sun. I can’t even begin to say what not seeing Peter every day means to us in the department.” – Sunita Bose, chair, Department of Sociology
“We’re celebrating Peter as a rock star.” – Maureen Morrow, professor of biology & bassist for Questionable Authorities
“If there was anyone holding us together, it was Peter. Anytime you messed up, you’d get the smile, this very distinct smile Peter had. It meant you messed up, but everything’s good – it was just this very positive expression.” – Glenn Geher, professor of psychology and guitarist for Questionable Authorities
“Peter and I developed a relationship that extended beyond student-teacher. Despite his numerous lived experiences and his proficiency in sociology, he treated me as his equal. He valued the contributions of his students, and made it a point to learn as much as his students did in each of his classes.” – Andrew Vlad ’10 (Sociology)
“Even as we are inspired by and celebrate Peter’s life, he was taken from us too soon and is sorely missed. Let him be a model for us all about how to live life to its fullest and in its best form – full of generosity.” – Donald P. Christian, President
Peter Kaufman identified a number of charities for those who may wish to make donations in his memory. These include the Sociology Scholarship for Progressive Social Change at the SUNY New Paltz Foundation, Greyhound Rescue & Rehab and the American Civil Liberties Union.
To give to the Sociology Scholarship, please visit https://www.newpaltz.edu/give/give-a-gift/, indicate “Other” as designation, type “Sociology Scholarship” and “In Honor of Peter Kaufman.”