S. Allen Counter, Jr., Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, Neurophysiologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Director of the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations, long-time teacher of biology and neurobiology to undergraduate, graduate and medical students as well as mentor to many Harvard alumnae and alumni, died the summer of 2017 at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Samuel Allen Counter, Jr. was born on July 8, 1944, in Americus, Georgia, and grew up in Boynton Beach and West Palm Beach, Florida. He earned a degree in biology from Tennessee Agricultural & Industrial State College (now Tennessee State University), a doctorate in communication studying neurophysiology from Case Western Reserve, and later a medical degree from Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.
In 1972, Counter joined the faculty of Harvard Medical School, as a postdoctoral fellow and then as assistant professor of neurophysiology. His research focused on nerve, muscle, and auditory physiology, which took him all over the world. Counter brought to world attention relatively unknown peoples of Suriname, South America, Ecuador, and the far reaches of Greenland.
In 1981 Harvard proposed and established the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations. The steering committee was chaired by the late Reverend Professor Peter J. Gomes. Influenced by the excellent credentials and personal qualities of Professor Counter, that committee approached him and invited him to be the founding director of the Harvard Foundation. Despite cautious counsel from friends and colleagues, Professor Counter accepted the directorship of the Foundation and, by dint of his own perseverance, has led it to unimaginable influence, accomplishments, and respect on the campus and beyond.
Over the three and a half decades of its existence the Foundation has brought to campus four Secretaries General of the United Nations, namely, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Kofi Annan, Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, and Ban Ki-moon. Award winning actors, musicians and activists such as Solange Knowles, Will Smith, Rihanna, Salma Hayak and Jackie Chan to name a few. In each of the visits of these esteemed guests the Foundation team and Dr. Counter made sure that they interacted with students— especially with students from diverse cultural and racial backgrounds. Professor Counter’s strong ties to the Nobel Committees in Sweden and Norway also influenced his ability to land Foundation guests such as Nobel laureates: Aung San Suu Kyi, Takaaki Kajita, Per Wästberg, Kailash Satyarthi, Desmond Tutu, Elie Wiesel, and Malala Yousafzai.
Dr. S. Allen Counter leaves behind three daughters, Philippa, Olivia, and Maya, as well as countless friends, University colleagues, and students.