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Pierre Colas

Pierre Colas

Members of the Vanderbilt Community,

It is with profound shock and sadness that I inform you of the tragic news of the death overnight of one of our faculty colleagues. Nashville police have informed the university that Assistant Professor of Anthropology Pierre Colas was shot and killed last night in his home. His sister, Marie, who was visiting him, was also shot and is in critical, but stable condition at Vanderbilt Medical Center. At this point, the police are trying to determine the details of the shooting.

Pierre was a talented young scholar who joined the Vanderbilt faculty in 2006. In his relatively brief time at Vanderbilt, he earned the respect of his colleagues and students, and his absence will be profoundly felt. He was a kind and gentle person and a devoted colleague, mentor and friend.

Members of the Vanderbilt Psychological and Counseling Center stand ready to offer their services to anyone in need of grief counseling. Please contact the center at 615.322.2571.

This blog,, has been created to provide a place for comments and sharing. Any updates about the situation and details about memorials for Pierre will be posted to the blog when they become available. Pierre’s friends, colleagues and students are welcome to share their thoughts and remembrances here.

Please keep Pierre’s family and loved ones in your thoughts and prayers.

Richard McCarty

*To comment on this or any other post on this blog, click the ‘Comments’ link to the left of the post.



    • Stanley Paul Guenter
    • Posted August 27, 2008 at 4:14 pm
    • Permalink
    • Reply

    I am absolutely shocked and saddened by this terrible news. When I visited Bonn a number of years back it was Robby who put me up and toured me around Cologne. I remember talking with him to the wee hours of the night in his living room, staring up at the hieroglyphic names of ancient Maya kings he had pasted all over his walls. In the last few years, since moving to Nashville, he was a regular at anthropology and Maya meetings in the US and I always enjoyed catching up with him and his mischievous sense of humor. He will be sorely missed and my deepest condolences to his family.

  1. Professor Colas taught one of my recent summer Anthropology classes at Vandy and from that one class, I was impressed with his brilliance and low key personality. He was kind. Professor Colas joined Professor Fowler and came to our last class two weeks ago in August, and we ate great Mexican food. He had a cold then. I am sorry to hear about his death. Senseless tragedy.

  2. This is just horrible. I have not had the pleasure of meeting Professor Colas, but it still saddens me that such a good person was killed. To his family, I am greatly sorry for your loss.

  3. I did not know Mr. Colas, though my thoughts and prayers go out to his family……….

  4. May his family and friends find comfort in the memories of his smile.

  5. what a tragic loss!! God bless him, family and friends.

  6. I too, was in professor Fowlers class this summer,Professor Colas assisted and taught one class,he mixed Margaritas, for the final class dinner.I found him a wonderful person, academically and personally

  7. Such a bright light gone from this world. He was funny and brilliant. Professor Colas will be missed by not just Vanderbilt but the entire world that is deprived of one of the greatest minds on the Maya culture.

  8. I didn’t have the fortune to have met this young man. I am none the less saddened to hear of his untimely death. In researching the Mayan culture for inspiration for a fashion collection I had the occasion to read some of his insightful works. He had such keen insight. My prayers are sent to his family.

  9. We are members of the family of Pierres girlfriend in Germany and received this message only yesterday. Although we didn’t know him that well, we can’t believe what happenend and are deeply saddened. We wish that his sister recovers as healthy and fast as possible. Our condolences and prayers to his family.

    Auch wenn wir Pierre nicht so gut kannten, wie wir es gerne hätten, wir sind geschockt und traurig über seinen Tod. Wir wünschen seiner Schwester eine schnelle Genesung und wir beten für seine Familie.

  10. Robbie was a good friend of mine. For almost every summer for the last 15 years he would come and spend a week or so at my grandparents house. My family was blessed enough to come and visit while he was there. This tragic event is hitting everyone who knew him hard. Why someone would do something so terrible to someone so gentle and kind still baffles the mind. My heart and prayers goes out to his family and to his sister, I know for sure this loss is hitting my family hard, I cannot even begin to imagine how it is effecting his.

    Thanks for the kind words and putting this site up, perhaps it will help some of us with closure.

  11. What a bereavement for his family and all who loved him! To know Pierre was to love him – his way to live his conviction of brotherhood being a fundamental human right. Whenever he attended our family – parents and relatives of his girlfriend in Germany -we always felt deeply impressed by his warmhearted speech and his tolerance, and also his mischievous sense of humor. A brilliant scientist of wide spread academic interest, very engaged teacher and an outstanding person!
    Our deepest condolences to Pierres family, best wishes for his sister Marie.

  12. Farewell to a friend:

    Most of you probably knew him as Dr. Colas. Some maybe as Pierre or even Robby the name he preferred among his Archeology circle of friends. But for those of us who grew to know him through a research project on the Northern Vaca Plateau in Belize he was simply Clint, as in Eastwood.

    When I first met Clint he was the age of many of you and an undergraduate student in Hamburg Germany. He responded to an open solicitation to join our research project, in Belize. I expected to see this big brawny German kid walk up the hill, but instead got this skinny twenty something year old. At the time I didn’t know this but his IQ probably exceeded his weight. He had a noticeable disability, he was carrying a fully loaded backpack strapped down with his drawing board and lugging several books on Mayan civilization. And he was proudly wearing a NASA baseball cap from a visit to the Houston Space Center.

    Knowing the rugged terrain and living conditions in the study area, I thought to myself, how in the world is this kid going to backpack into the bush and survive for two weeks? He passed every test including learning how to vertical cave. Something after 19 years I’m still convinced I don’t want to do. But Clint overcame a lot of challenges by his own inner drive to succeed. By the end of that first trip we formed a special bond. The following year he returned and revolutionized camp comfort. He brought a canvas rocking chair that we all ridiculed and made fun of. The entire group fought for that chair at night and the next year we all had chairs.

    It’s seldom in life you get an opportunity to meet someone you sense is destined for greatness. Clint was one of those people. He was going to be the best. He was so knowledgeable about his chosen field of interest at such an early age. Yet he was still willing to take chances to continue his intellectual and personal development. He took a chance with us and our project and everyone grew from the relationship.

    He conducted his life like a chess game, each move well thought out in advance. His mind worked like a fined tuned BMW he liked to brag to me about driving on the German Autobahn. He set his goal to become a well respected academic. He was well on his way to accomplishing that goal when his life was so senselessly taken away.

    Clint had a gift. He knew, we all knew. He was one of a handful of individuals in the world that could do what he did, read Mayan hieroglyphs. He saw that gift for what it was, an opportunity to pass on to others his knowledge and enthusiasm of anything Mesoamerican. He had such respect for his colleagues and showed little if any professional jealousy. He had a great trait. He could talk to anyone, be it a diplomat or a subsistence farmer in Central America with equal respect. As serious as he took his profession, what I love most about him is he never took himself too serious. I have plenty of pictures as evidence to that, which I will cherish forever.

    Clint loved what he did it was evident whenever you were around him. That enthusiasm had to translate well into the classroom. I remember when he got his appointment to Vanderbilt how excited he was. He was living his dream, he knew he was on his way and things were falling into place just as he planned.

    It’s tragic for his students, family, friends, and Vanderbilt that his life was taken so early. He had not come close to reaching his prime. We can only dream now what those accomplishments might have been. I’m so grateful I got to share a little of it with him. Peace my friend.

    Bill Reynolds
    Lower Dover Field Station
    Unitedville, Belize C.A.

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