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Peter Vukasin

Former Harpur Dean Peter Vukasin dies at 92

by Katie Ellis

Peter Vukasin

"Something special from the beginning"

In 2010, Peter Vukasin sat down with Harpur alum Elliott Masie '72 to discuss Harpur's transition throughout the years.

Peter Vukasin, 92, former dean of Harpur College, died Nov. 24 in Massachusetts. Vukasin joined the faculty in the Department of Economics at Binghamton in 1957, and became dean of Harpur College in 1967. He served in that position until 1974, when he left to become vice president for academic affairs at SUNY New Paltz. He retired from New Paltz in 1988.

He served in the U.S. Army in Burma from 1942 to 1944, and then earned a bachelor's degree and doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley. Vukasin taught at the University of Illinois and as a visiting assistant professor at Cornell University before coming to Binghamton. He also spent a year at the University of Ghana on a Fulbright grant.

Called "a pivotal figure in the history of Harpur College" by Donald Nieman, provost and vice president for academic affairs, Vukasin chaired the Division of Social Sciences and the Department of Economics while on the faculty and played a key role in establishing a new governance structure for the University as dean of Harpur College. After he left Binghamton, a blue painted and welded steel sculpture called Phantom II, created by Howard Nichol, was placed on the plaza in front of the Glenn G. Bartle Library in his honor.

Former President Clifford Clark worked with Vukasin for a number of years and recalled Vukasin's clear understanding of how best to support a growing institution.

"When I came to Binghamton as the academic vice president, I worked closely with Pete on a review of the plans of each department in the college," Clark said. "Pete knew what the chairs expected, and had organized his approach to strengthen graduate offerings. In conflicts over resources, Pete always supported the college, yet he understood that all parts of the University would benefit from the growth of the professional schools and related units. Over the years of our association I enjoyed my interactions with Pete, respected his integrity and valued his academic leadership."

"Peter Vukasin served as dean and mentor to the student body in the exciting, turbulent and changing times of the late '60s," said Elliott Masie '72. "He built a unique bridge between the forces of change and the traditions of the college.

"On a personal level, he demonstrated that you can be a leader, a communicator and change agent at once," Masie added. "The students that he supported went on to become federal magistrates, White House Fellows and business leaders — each with a powerful Harpur College experience."

In 2010, former student Harold Cohen '59 and his wife Jo, endowed the Peter N. Vukasin Lecture in Economics at Binghamton University. Harold Cohen considered Vukasin a role model and mentor.

Vukasin is survived by his wife, Eileen Farley; son Dr. Alexander Vukasin and daughter-in-law Dr. Nicole Vukasin; his former wife, Helen Vukasin; a brother; two nephews and a niece.

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Last Updated: 12/10/14