(He went away without saying goodbye.)

Our friend, teacher and colleague, Dr. Richard Prior, died on Tuesday, August 24, 2010. Richard taught in the Department of Classics since 1994 and served as chair of the department in 2009 and 2010. His students will remember his self-deprecating humor, his love of culture from Vergil to his velvet Elvis, and his willingness to share his life’s adventures and innumerable enthusiasms (his dogs, oenology, wine making and Civil War reenactments). They will also remember his uncompromising dedication to teaching about the ancient world and tireless scholarship on the pedagogy of Latin. Mostly, they will remember his ability to reach out to students who needed a counselor or simply a friend and the fierce loyalty and boundless generosity he offered with an open heart.

Dr. Richard E. Prior

Dr. Richard E. Prior, age 47, died on August 24 from pneumonia. He was an Associate Professor of Classics at Furman University.

He was born in Syracuse, New York, to Edmon Prior and Stella Beaulieu, who survive him.  A 1980 graduate of Baldwinsville High School in Baldwinsville, New York, he wrote a senior thesis on the novels of Vladimir Nabokov and became one of the few individuals, then or now, to receive a New York State Regents diploma in four languages.

He attended the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, graduating in 1985. There, he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and received a B.A. in Latin and teacher certification. He received an M.A. from the University of Maryland in 1991, and a Ph.D. from SUNY-Buffalo in 1994, both in classics.  In addition to fluency in French, Spanish, German, Italian, Latin, and Greek, he completed studies of Portuguese, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Sanskrit, and Finnish.  His knowledge in several other fields was equally impressive.

He was a brilliant and engaging teacher whose career began in North Carolina and Virginia, where he taught in both junior and senior high schools.  In 1986 he established the first Greek class in a public high school in the southeastern United States.  He went on to teach hundreds of other students at SUNY-Buffalo, the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, and Furman.  His inspiring influence on these students will be felt for decades.

He was the author of five books on learning Latin, including 501 Latin Verbs, a book that almost every student of the language possesses.  He was an animated and entertaining commentator who appeared in documentaries broadcast on The History Channel and The National Geographic Channel.  A modern-day Indiana Jones, he delighted in taking students on archaeological excavations throughout Italy.

Although raised a Roman Catholic, he eventually became a Buddhist, a decision he made after spending several weeks at a Buddhist monastery in the Mojave Desert.  Although a person of strong opinions, he was gentle and compassionate in his interactions with people.  He had a quick and sardonic sense of humor that amused everyone.  He despised all forms of hypocrisy, bigotry, pretense, and inequality.  His wallet was always open to anyone needing help.

He was an iconoclast with voracious interests. He played the French horn, and was a gifted painter and enthusiastic hockey player.  Other interests included tropical plants, Asian cooking, Civil War reenactments, winemaking, Sudoku, and woodworking.  He loved all animals, especially his border collie, Tarquin, who died recently.

He leaves behind a loving partner of 24 years, Scott Henderson.  They fought many battles for themselves and others in their quest to be treated with dignity and equality.  They were fortunate to have found many supportive and caring friends in Greenville.  They shared an endlessly interesting and fulfilling life together.

In addition to his parents and partner, he is survived by two sisters, Stella Barnello and her husband Bob, and Cathy Bocyck and her husband Bobby; nephews Robby Barnello and Scotty Becker Jr.; great nephew Nicholas Becker; and great niece Arain Becker.

The family expresses enduring appreciation for his loving and skilled caregivers at St. Francis Hospital, and to the students, faculty, chaplain, and administration of Furman for their unhesitating and unceasing support of him and his partner.

In lieu of a funeral, there will be a memorial service at Furman University, date and time to be announced in several weeks.

Donations can be made to the Greenville Humane Society, 328 Furman Hall Road, Greenville, SC 29609.

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