Obituary: Abbass Alkhafaji / Business professor at Slippery Rock
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Abbass Alkhafaji, a Slippery Rock University business professor known for his numerous publications and his commitment to international issues, died Thursday from spinal cancer at the Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore. He was 59.
Born in Iraq, Dr. Alkhafaji came to the United States for graduate school, earning his doctorate from the University of Texas and master's degrees in accounting, economics and business from North Texas State University and Bowling Green State University.
He became a U.S. citizen more than 20 years ago and developed academic specialties in strategic management and a theory called Total Quality Management. He also co-founded the International Academy of Business Disciplines, which publishes four journals and hosts small annual conferences where academics from more than 20 different countries present scientific papers.
He worked tirelessly coordinating conferences and visits from scientists all over the world, said Ahmad Tootoonchi, current president of the international academy and a longtime friend of Dr. Alkhafaji.
"He had this philosophy that his overall well being depended on how much he cared for others," said Mr. Tootoonchi, who is also the chair of the department of management at Frostburg State University. "He was so good to so many people. He was my mentor. He was like a big brother."
Dr. Alkhafaji joined the Slippery Rock faculty in 1987 and served as chair of the department of marketing and management until it recently merged with the School of Business.
"He always had a smile on his face and he was always energetic," said David Culp, chair of the school of business. "He truly believed in the importance of what he was teaching."
Dr. Alkhafaji traveled frequently to the Middle East to give lectures and workshops, eager to provide assistance to a region he cared deeply about.
He was thrilled by the capture of Saddam Hussein in 2003, telling the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette at the time that "This is the happiest, most joyful, most satisfying day ... This tyrant dictator is not a human being. This is an animal."
In recent years, however, he grew weary of the war and concerned for the safety of the Iraqi people. "Even in the hospital when I visited him, he really wished that this war could end," said Mr. Tootoonchi.
Mr. Tootoonchi said that Dr. Alkhafaji's cancer was discovered several months ago when he was lecturing in Qatar under a Fulbright scholarship. As the cancer progressed, Dr. Alkhafaji became paralyzed and was transferred to Pittsburgh and then to Johns Hopkins, he said.
Dr. Alkhafaji is survived by his wife, Fatin, of New Castle; two daughters, Aliah and Shaemah Alkhafaji, both of Philadelphia; and five sons, Ali, Adam, Hussain, Hassan and Ibrahim, all of New Castle.
Funeral services were held Saturday in Dearborn, Mich., where Dr. Alkhafaji had extended family and ties to the Islamic community. Both Slippery Rock and the IABD are planning to establish scholarships in his name.
First Published September 25, 2007 12:00 am