Slain Arkansas professor eulogized

Wednesday, September 13th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – About 450 people attended a memorial service Tuesday on the University of Arkansas campus here for an associate professor who was shot and killed by a former graduate student.

Geoff Oelsner, a social worker in Fayetteville, said John R. Locke could not be categorized.

Dr. Locke was "probably more of a Buddha than a Buddhist," Mr. Oelsner said. "He was a living reminder that we can't limit ourselves to labels even though we try sometimes."

Several speakers mentioned Dr. Locke's caring attitude and his efforts to look after friends and students.

Dr. Locke was killed Aug. 28, the first day of fall classes at the university. The associate professor of English and director of the comparative literature program was shot and killed by James E. Kelly, who then shot himself in the chest and died a short time later. The shooting took place in Dr. Locke's office in Kimpel Hall.

Mr. Kelly had been a graduate student at Arkansas since 1990, first in English and then in comparative literature.

University officials said that he never made significant progress toward any degree and that he was dismissed from the graduate program a week before the shooting.

The memorial service was in Giffels Auditorium in Old Main. The auditorium, which has seats for about 275, was packed. Additional chairs were brought in and some people stood during the service.

Dozens of people watched the service on closed-circuit television sets in three classrooms.

Barbara Taylor, associate vice chancellor for human resources at the university, told those attending of many of Dr. Locke's interests during the years, including transcendental meditation, linguistics and semantics, yoga, massage, American Indian cultures, ballroom dancing and Zen Buddhism.

"He spoke of his plans for retirement," she said. "They were only plans because he taught that expectations often lead to disappointments."

"I believe he would have found this memorial a bit much," said Randall Woods, dean of the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences.

The service ended with a simple guitar and flute arrangement of "Amazing Grace."

During the service, Mr. Woods also offered condolences and sympathy to the family and friends of Mr. Kelly.

On Monday, John A. White, chancellor of the Fayetteville campus, announced the formation of a committee to study the school's handling of the shooting and to make recommendations for improving campus safety and communications during emergencies.

He asked that the recommendations be compiled by Oct. 15.

He also has asked for a review of graduation education policies and procedures that may be related to Mr. Kelly's situation.

Bob Smith, the university provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs who joined the staff July 1, said he was surprised to discover that the Graduate School requires little oversight beyond the departmental level for graduate student progress.