Professor William LaFleur of the East Asian Languages and Civilizations Department died suddenly from a heart attack on Feb. 26, according to the Office of the Provost.

LaFleur, who was on leave this semester, served as the E. Dale Saunders Professor in Japanese Studies. He received a doctorate and master’s degree from the University of Chicago in history of religions and East Asian studies after attending both Calvin College and the University of Michigan.

His research addressed Buddhism and culture in Japan. His most recent focus was bioethics in contemporary Japan.

“It’s a shocking and devastating loss,” East Asian Language and Civilizations Chairman Paul Goldin wrote in an e-mail. “We were all in touch with Prof. LaFleur right up to the day he died and thought he was in fine health.”

Goldin added that LaFleur was scheduled to give a public lecture the following day and lead a colloquium in the Religious Studies Department this week.

“The loss for Japanese studies at Penn is impossible to overstate,” he said.

LaFleur was one of only two professors in the School of Arts and Sciences who focused on Japan. With the impending retirement of the other professor, Goldin explained that SAS will have lost both of its experts in Japanese studies.

“Prof. LaFleur will be missed by his students, colleagues, and friends,” Goldin wrote.

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