Richard T. Antoun's final lesson would have been one of understanding his accused killer.
"He would have wanted people to understand, not judge," said his sister, Linda Antoun Miller, following a memorial service Friday for Richard Antoun.
The Binghamton University anthropology professor emeritus was fatally stabbed Dec. 4 on the university campus.
Abdulsalam S. Al-Zahrani, 46, a Saudi national and graduate student at BU, has been charged with second-degree murder in the professor's death. The two knew each other through Al-Zahrani's doctoral work in the anthropology department. No motive has been released.
More than 400 people crowded into the Unitarian Universalist Congregation on Riverside Drive to say goodbye to Antoun. A table in the congregation's sanctuary was decorated with a portrait of Antoun, a Red Sox cap, and a coffee bean grinder that was a gift from a friend in the Middle East.
The professor had close ties to the Middle East. His grandfather was Lebanese and much of his work in academia centered in that region of the world, colleagues said.
The mementos were a backdrop to what Antoun's family, friends and colleagues said about a man described as both brilliant and kind.
"The loss is huge," said Nicholas Antoun, the professor's son.
His father, a Massachusetts native, was a long-suffering Red Sox baseball fan who also cheered for the New England Patriots and Boston Celtics.
Richard Antoun never made excuses when his teams lost. "He was gracious in defeat," his son said. "There were no excuses. They were outplayed."
He was rarely profane, his son said. When cut off in traffic, his harshest comment would be: "Come on, Mack." If Richard Antoun was annoyed with a politician, he'd refer to him as "Casper Milquetoast."
The same even-handedness marked his relationships with colleagues and friends.
"Everyone's view was important to him," Nicholas Antoun said.
That held true with the "lunch bunch," a group of retirees, including Antoun, who met once a week at the Park Diner in Binghamton, and whose food choices were well-known by the waitresses there.
Richard Antoun always had Boston cream pie, said his friend, George Haeseler, a member of Broome County Peace Action, as was Antoun.
"He was a mensch," said Richard Antoun's wife, Rosalyn.
On the BU campus, Antoun was well-known for his knowledge and kindness.
The anthropology department was inundated after his death with e-mails from his former students, said Michael Little, distinguished professor of anthropology.
Antoun, who received his Ph.D. from Harvard University, joined the BU faculty in 1976. He authored six books and numerous articles about life and culture in the Middle East. Two of his specialties were comparative religion and the social organization of tradition in Islamic law and ethics.
Officials said his death wasn't related to his work, which included an examination of fundamentalism in Islam, Christianity and Judaism.
In the days before the stabbing, Al-Zahrani was agitated over losing funding to continue his studies in anthropology, fellow graduate students said.
Now, Al-Zahrani is in the Broome County Jail without bail, awaiting grand jury action.
The Rev. David J. Miller said his brother-in-law's slaying hasn't changed the way he regards the Muslim and Arabic communities.
"I still hold out my hand in friendship," Miller said after Friday's service.