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Maurice Harton died at the age of 35.

First-year Ph.D. student Maurice Harton died in his off-campus residence this week, according to an announcement from the Vice Provost for University Life.

Harton, 35, studied Art and Archaeology of the Mediterranean World, and his research at Penn focused on the architecture of the Hellenistic and early Roman East, according to the AAMW website. He studied the social dynamics of architecture and space, including cultural contact and identity through architecture.

"Maurice excelled not only in his chosen field of study but also in various related and unrelated fields. He loved animals. As a birder, he observed and identified over 500 species of birds in his lifetime," his sister, Wendy Benner, wrote in a statement. "Maurice also loved art and creative writing and expressed himself beautifully. He could converse with you on just about any topic and teach you something new, without ever posturing as a 'know-it-all.'" 

Benner added that autopsy results were inconclusive and that Harton experienced heart palpitations and dizziness a week leading up to his death.  

“In the short time that Maurice was with us, he made a deeply positive impression on all of us as a highly intelligent, hard-working, and affable young person,” Classical Studies professor Tom Tartaron, who is also the chair of the Art and Archaeology of the Mediterranean World graduate group, said in the announcement. 

Harton earned bachelor’s degrees in Art History and Classics from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a master’s in Art History from the University of Texas. Harton's master's thesis explores the perspectives of enslaved people working in the Roman palaces of Augustus and Nero and was dedicated to his mother, who died in 2016. 

Undergraduate Chair of Classical Studies James Ker also notified undergraduate students in classical studies courses of Harton's death because some classical studies undergraduate students might have known Harton. 

“Maurice’s intellectual curiosity was expansive and passionate,” professor of Classical Studies Ralph Rosen said in the announcement, “and he conveyed this passion with a warm and energetic spirit. We are all devastated to have lost not only a remarkable mind, but a lively, generous presence as well.”

"I’ve never met anyone with as many “best friends” as Maurice had. He always made time for a friend in need of a hug, a laugh, or a listening ear," Benner wrote. "We will miss him greatly."

A gathering for Harton will be held on March 11 at 5 p.m. in the Penn Museum, Tartaron wrote in an email to the Classical Studies and Ancient History graduate students and faculty. 

Harton is the 13th student who has died since the beginning of 2017. He is survived by his father, stepmother, and three sisters.


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Penn Benjamins (in-person peer counseling)

  • Su, M, T 8-11 p.m. Harnwell Library First Floor
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Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly spelled Tartaron's name and mischaracterized the March 11 gathering as a memorial. The DP regrets the errors.

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