Buffalo State history professor Felix Armfield dies in apartment fire

Armfield was a student favorite who will be remembered for community work


College Relations

Buffalo State professor Felix Armfield was killed when his Delaware Avenue apartment caught fire Wednesday night. He was 51.

A SUNY Buffalo State professor was killed in a three-alarm fire to his Delaware Avenue apartment Wednesday night, school officials confirmed this afternoon.

Felix J. Armfield, a professor in the  history and social studies education department, died shortly after firefighters carried him from his fourth-floor apartment, authorities said. He was 51.

Investigators this afternoon continued to search the apartment, which is a part of Commodore Apartments at 1240 Delaware Ave., to determine the cause, according to a report by The Buffalo News. The report said investigators have made a preliminary conclusion that there is nothing suspicious about the fire.

Damages to the five-story building are estimated at $600,000.

The fire broke out in Armfield’s apartment at about 9 p.m., according to authorities. Firefighters were able to get into the apartment and remove the professor, but he died soon afterward.

“It was a labor-intensive operation. There were no sprinklers or stand pipes. We had to carry hoses up,” Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield told The Buffalo News. “The fire happened in the man’s apartment, and it was basically gutted. Damage was extensive there and to the apartment above it, in Apartment 510.”

Armfield joined Buffalo State as an assistant professor of history and social studies education in 2000. He was promoted to associate professor in 2002 and professor in 2008.

Armfield was heavily involved in the Buffalo State and Western New York community. He helped to establish African American ancestral heritage tours at Forest Lawn Cemetery and served as an executive board member of the Michigan Street Preservation Corporation, where he also worked on the Nash House Restoration Project.

In 2005, Armfield served as associate project director on the Niagara Movement Centennial Distinguished Lecture Series, which was funded by a New York Council for the Humanities grant. He was working on a history of SUNY Buffalo State at the time of his death.

“His students were the primary beneficiaries of his scholarship,” history and social studies education department chair Andrew Nicholls said in a statement. “Many of his students commented on the depth of his knowledge and his willingness to provide individual attention to each student. He brought a commitment to sharing the lived experience of ordinary Americans to his scholarship and teaching. He was a valued member of our faculty, and we are deeply saddened by this tragic news.”

Armfield is survived by his sister, Kimberly, and several other close family members.

Students took to social media Wednesday to grieve the loss of their professor.

“Cannot believe my professor passed away,” one student tweeted. “I just sat in his office on Tuesday for about an hour talking about being the NAACP advisor.”

“My African American History professor passed away in the fire on Delaware last night,” Maya McGee posted on Facebook. “RIP Dr. Armfield, you were so inspiring and easily my favorite professor I’ve ever had. Thank you for everything.”

Details for a memorial service have not yet been announced.