Campus reflects on life and career of professor

Felix Armfield remembered as a student favorite


College Relations

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

The SUNY Buffalo State community is in mourning after the death of history and social studies professor Felix Armfield, 51, in a fire to his Delaware Avenue apartment April 30.

“Professor Armfield was a caring, fun-loving individual,” said Andrew Nicholls, chair of the history department. “He was the life of the department.”

Nicholls said that although people were shocked to hear about Armfield’s death, faculty, staff and students in the history department have rallied around each other in support. Nicholls said that everyone he spoke to shared good memories of Armfield.

“He was a good dude. Very smart, very insightful,” said Oliver Colbert, a journalism senior who took Armfield’s African-American history class this semester. “He was a role model for African-American males.”

Serenity Smith, another student in the class and administrative vice president for campus affairs and government relations in the United Students Government, agreed that Armfield was a role model to his students.

“He wanted you to challenge, he wanted you to question, he wanted you to feel some way about what he was saying,” Smith said.

Smith said that Armfield’s history lessons and his stories about growing up in the south were what inspired her to become more involved in the black community.

“(He) made me want to reach out and look into my own culture and identity,” Smith said.

Smith first met Armfield last year after choosing a minor in African-American studies. She said she’s “been in love with his teachings and stories ever since.”

Colbert and Smith both found out about Armfield’s death shortly before their class on Thursday. Smith said she was in disbelief when a student first told her that Armfield had died, because she had just seen him earlier that week. The news was later confirmed during her class.

“I broke down crying,” Smith said.

People loved Dr. Armfield. He cared about everyone, all students, regardless of race, color, creed, sexual orientation.

— Ron Stewart, a professor in the sociology department

Smith said she wants to use what she learned from Armfield to give back to the community.

“He was like an uncle to me,” Smith said. “My lessons in African-American history will never be the same.”

Armfield was also the campus adviser for the Buffalo State chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. Raymond Pitts, president of the chapter, said that Armfield was always available to help the fraternity and offer support and advice. He said Armfield’s death was an “emotional hit” for the group.

“It’s the loss of a good brother,” Pitts said. “He really helped us a lot – I can’t stress that enough.”

Friends of Armfield on the faculty of Buffalo State also spoke about their experiences with him.

“People loved Dr. Armfield,” said Ron Stewart, a professor in the sociology department. “He cared about everyone, all students, regardless of race, color, creed, sexual orientation.”

Stewart met Armfield when Armfield was first interviewed at Buffalo State in spring 2000. He said they had been close friends ever since.

Stewart was the one who drove Armfield home Wednesday night, less than an hour before the deadly fire started. The night after the fire, Stewart wrote a letter to his colleagues, encouraging them to focus on Armfield’s life rather than his death.

“…As you bemoan the loss of my friend and colleague know that Felix would not want you to spend one second thinking about how he died last night,” Stewart wrote in the letter. “Parenthetically, he probably would also want us to have a strong drink in celebration of his “soul going home.””

Stewart recently won USG’s Instructor of the Year Award. He gave the award to Armfield posthumously. He said he’s looking into having his own name on the plaque replaced with Armfield’s, and that he plans to give it to his family when he sees them for the funeral.

Another faculty member and friend of Armfield, communication department lecturer Stanton Hudson, lived next door to Armfield. Hudson met Armfield in 2002 when the latter joined the board of the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historical Site, which Hudson was already on.

“(He was) a sweet and wonderful guy,” Hudson said. “He was just a lovely man who, more than anything, cared about his students.”

Hudson said that although he didn’t know many of Armfield’s students, when he told his class about Armfield’s death, one of his own students was shaken to the point of tears. He said he thought that was indicative of the impact Armfield had on campus.

Hudson himself said that he was still in shock over the news.

“It’s just so hard to believe,” Hudson said. “It’s hard to believe he’s been taken from us so early in life.”

Grief counseling is available at the College Counseling Center in Weigel Health Center. They can be reached at (716) 878-4436.

According to Nicholls, the college is planning a memorial service sometime during the week of May 19, but no date has officially been set. The college has said in an email that more information about the service will be released as soon as it becomes available.


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