Peter Awn, former Dean of the School of General Studies, was struck in a car accident while walking home from campus Friday evening. He remains in critical but stable condition in the neuro-ICU at CUIMC, according to an email sent to GS students by GS Dean Lisa Rosen-Metsch this afternoon.
Awn, who served as the dean of the school for 20 years before stepping down in 2017, is currently a religion professor in Columbia’s religion department. During his tenure as dean, Awn was a popular and widely-trusted leader among GS students, and he focused largely on improving financial aid and housing opportunities, increasing resources for student veterans, and expanding initiatives offered through the Academic Resource Center.
In light of news of the accident, GS students spoke to Awn’s significance in the community.
“He’s a legend and an idol in our community. Dean Awn is greatly missed as it is, and to hear that he was hurt hurts us all. I can only hope he will be okay and our community will always be there to help where we can,” Jenna Marie Rackerby, GS ‘19, said.
Kristofer Goldsmith, GS ‘20 and a veteran, also cited his work with veterans on campus as a testament to his character.
“He was the one who created the character of GS and shaped the personality of this school. … It’s horrible to hear that a man like him could have a bad thing happen to him,” Goldsmith said. “He’s one of the most special people. It’s a phrase I don’t think I’ve ever used seriously anymore. He has had a profound impact of the lives of thousands of people.”
In her email, Rosen-Metsch recognized the tight-knit nature of the GS community and emphasized that students should focus on supporting one another during this difficult time. Rosen-Metsch also encouraged students to seek support through on-campus resources including the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services, the Office of the University Chaplain, and the GS Office of the Dean of Students.
“We can take comfort in the strength of our GS family and the way in which the Columbia community is rallying to support Dean Awn, his family, and our school in this awful moment,” Rosen-Metsch wrote.
Check back for updates.
Read the full email below:
Dear GS Students,
I am writing to share with you some difficult news regarding Peter Awn, my predecessor as dean of the School of General Studies. On Friday night, around 6 p.m., Dean Awn was struck by a car while walking home from campus. He is currently in critical, but stable, condition and being cared for by a dedicated team of physicians at CUIMC.
Dean Awn is a beloved member of the GS family and has played a major role in the lives of many current and past GS students. For those of you who know and love Dean Awn, I realize that this is difficult news to process, but I also know we can take comfort in the strength of our GS family and the way in which the Columbia community is rallying to support Dean Awn, his family, and our school in this awful moment. Dean Awn cares so deeply about GS, and especially about you, our students. He would want nothing more, in fact he would insist, that we focus not on him, but on supporting each other--students, alumni, and staff. His family is there for him, as I know we will be, and the physicians who are working to help him through this crisis are doing all they can to care for him.
For the time being, the family has asked that we honor Dean Awn’s privacy and allow the family the space and time they need to focus on his recovery. While I will try to keep you informed as the situation develops, please know that there is a long road ahead and keep Dean Awn in your hearts and thoughts.
Please know that your academic advisor, the staff at Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS), and members of the Office of the University Chaplain are all available to provide you with any additional support you might need at this time. We have listed their contact information for you below.
Counseling and Psychological Services
Lerner Hall, 5th and 8th Floors
Office of the University Chaplain
GS Office of the Dean of Students