Former head bursar makes lasting impact

By Assistant Campus Editor

Peter Radke, who died Dec. 20, 2013, loved baseball, hockey, Ping-Pong battles and helping students whenever he could. He is survived by his wife Barbara Radke.

Peter Radke, the former chief bursar of Columbia, died Dec. 20, 2013 from an undisclosed long-term illness. He was 60 years old.

Radke had been involved with Columbia since he enrolled as a radio major in 1977. He graduated in 1981 as valedictorian of his class and later became the head bursar for Student Financial Services. Jennifer Waters, executive director of SFS, fondly remembers working with Radke.

“He was very much attached to Columbia,” Waters said. “It was his life. He was attached in every way, shape and form.”

Radke also served in the U.S. Coast Guard from 1972 to 1976, according to his oral history on Columbia’s website. Waters said Radke was very proud of his service and did his best to help other Columbia students who had served as well.

“He really felt that it was not just Columbia’s job or his job, but all of us really need to make sure that veterans are taken care of when they come back,” Waters said.

Radke wanted to help veterans get a quality education and assimilate back into civilian life, according to Waters.

Radke also made an impression on Paula Epstein, reference & instruction librarian. Epstein said she knew Radke for nearly 30 years and remembers him as always having a calm presence and wry sense of humor.

She remembered working with him in the Alexandroff Campus Center, 600 S. Michigan Ave., and  talking with him before this past winter break about his plans for retirement this year.  Epstein said, Radke was excited about his upcoming retirement.

Louis Silverstein, distinguished professor in the Humanities, History & Social Sciences Department, said that he had a close relationship with Radke.

Silverstein said he met Radke in 1979 as a student in his class and that he knew him as an insightful and intelligent man.

Silverstein said students could learn a lot from Radke because he had an ability to take subjects that were taught in class at a much deeper level.

“He was always concerned with how other people were doing in the class,” Silverstein said. “Peter was not just an intelligent fellow, he was also filled with heart.”

In Radke’s valedictorian speech, he mentioned two teachers who  truly influenced him: the late Al Parker from the Radio Department and Silverstein. In Radke’s oral history, he mentions his connection to Silverstein and the effect that the professor had on him.

In an emailed statement, Dolores Javier, associate controller, said Radke moved lives of both students and coworkers at Columbia.

Radke will be remembered as a great listener, a lover of Ping-Pong battles,a great thinker and someone who truly cared about everyone he worked with, according to the testimonies of  his coworkers

“He was someone you could always depend on, and how rare is that, to be able to say that about people?” Epstein said.

Update: Peter Radke’s age was incorrectly stated as 50. His correct age at time of death was 60.