UH prof helped others find joy in life


POSTED: Thursday, May 21, 2009

Like Socrates, professor Abraham Nathan Arkoff, a longtime psychology instructor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, believed, “;The unexamined life is not worth living.”;


Arkoff, known as “;Abe,”; encouraged people to do much more than just muddle through life by creating a signature workshop, and later a workbook called, “;The Illuminated Life,”; said his wife, Susan.

She and son Ty said they will use his book to cope with his death from pneumonia Sunday at the Arcadia Retirement Residence. He was 86.

Quoting from the preface of her husband's book, she said he wrote it so that “;you may better understand, appreciate, and (if necessary) forgive your past, find more joy, purpose and peace of mind in the present as well as assurance and direction for the future.”;

“;He wanted to be remembered as a teacher who cared,”; she said, describing him as a “;gentle, loving but funny man with a pixie-ish sense of humor.”;

Joining the faculty in 1951, Arkoff's passion for teaching kept him working free of charge some 15 years after he technically retired, she added. He received the UH Regent's Medal for Excellence in Teaching, among multiple awards for developing creative programs that benefited hundreds of students and elders. In 1997 he created the university's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. He was also a trainer for Project Dana, an interfaith caregivers program to support terminally ill patients in the community.

Ty Arkoff said his father was never the same after suffering a traumatic brain injury from a fall at UH in November 2007, “;but even in his illness, he was still teaching, providing us an opportunity to learn something about ourselves. ... I know that I have learned much about my capacity to love, to care for others and to not take for granted the permanence of any situation.”;

The professor also told friends he had donated his body to the UH medical school so that he could continue to teach after death.

Arkoff is also survived by daughter Amy and brothers Harold and Robert. A celebration of life will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Arcadia, 1434 Punahou St.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions be mailed to Osher Lifelong Learning Institute-UHM, Box 460, 2440 Campus Road, Honolulu, HI 96822. Checks should be made out to the UH Foundation #123-0790-4 (OLLI).