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TSU Graduate and Renowned Harvard Scientist S. Allen Counter Dies at 73

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Dr. S. Allen Counter, a Tennessee State University graduate and renowned Harvard scientist, has died at the age of 73.

Counter, a neurobiologist who joined the Harvard faculty in 1970, died July 12. He is best known for championing the achievements of African American explorer Matthew Henson. He traveled to Greenland, where he found descendants of Henson and fellow polar explorer Robert E. Peary.

Dr. S. Allen Counter receives a gift from TSU President Glenda Glover following his presentation as keynote speaker at the 2013 Annual University Wide Research Symposium. (Photo by John Cross, TSU Media Relations)

Born Samuel Allen Counter Jr., in Americus, Georgia on July 8, 1944, Counter grew up near West Palm Beach, Florida.  His father was a business manager and his mother was a nurse.

Counter earned a bachelor’s degree in speech communication and theater from Tennessee State University in 1965. Five years later, he received a doctorate in neurobiology from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. He later obtained another doctorate in medical science from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.

In 2013, Counter returned to TSU as the keynote speaker at the Annual University Wide Research Symposium.

In his academicwork, Counter, longtime director of the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations, branched into ethnographic studies of African descendants around the world and produced award-winning documentaries about isolated populations of former slaves in Ecuador and Suriname (the former Dutch Guiana).

“There is no purer group of Africans in the Western hemisphere than those communities living along the rivers of the Suriname interior,” Counter told New African magazine in 2009. “These people have changed very little in 300 years. In many ways they were more African than many Africans today!”

He was the author of “North Pole Legacy: Black, White and Eskimo,” a book about explorer Henson.

For more information on the life and work of Dr. Counter, go to http://wapo.st/2sUBT9n


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With more than 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 25 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.