Retired SU professor, activist for world peace, dies

Rama Mohanty had two overriding interests — a thirst for peace in the world and a love of the science of physics.

A longtime Southern University professor who retired from teaching in 2010, Mohanty, 75, died Wednesday.

“This fragile-looking man was a full professor of physics, an activist, a human rights advocate, a fund raiser, an organizer and a man of enormous will and energy,” wrote Southern University computer science professor Sudhir Kumar Trivedi, in an announcement of Mohanty’s passing.

“He was very ambitious. He wanted to do big things,” said Trivedi on Thursday.

Trivedi said he came to know Mohanty well through Trivedi’s several years as president of the Southern University Faculty Senate.

In 1964, Mohanty established and served as general secretary of the Institute of All Nations, a private, nonprofit corporation that began under the co-chairmanship of former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg and former U.N. Ambassador Arthur Lall.

It adopted a resolution that World Peace Day be observed internationally each Oct. 1.

The observance of the day in Louisiana has been marked by an annual proclamation by the governor and the adoption of resolutions by the state legislature.

Mohanty also founded the Louisiana World Peace Day Committee, which has sponsored World Peace Day activities since 1998.

A resolution passed by the Louisiana Senate last year commended Mohanty, saying his efforts to promote peace were motivated by his witnessing as a young man brutal murders of people, including women and children, as a result of religious and communal rioting in his native India.

After graduating from college in India, Mohanty obtained a scholarship to Pennsylvania State University, where he earned his PhD in physics, the youngest student in his class.

He went on to serve as professor and chairman of the Physics Department at Morehouse College in Atlanta.

Mohanty’s son, Bijoy Mohanty, said his father got to know the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who was also teaching at Morehouse at the time, and would sometimes substitute teach for King’s religion classes.

After Morehouse, Mohanty taught at the University of California in Berkley and at New York State University, before coming to Louisiana in 1976.

He taught at Southern University for more than 30 years, before retiring in 2010.

Mohanty was nominated for the Nobel Prize in physics in 2003, according to biographical material.

“Throughout his 35-year tenure at Southern University, Dr. Mohanty conducted first class research with funding acquired from several federal agencies,” said Diola Bagayoko, professor with Southern’s Physics Department.

“A nuclear physicist by training ... he established and successfully ran the Southern Research Institute of Pure and Applied Sciences” at Southern, Bagayoko said.

For many years, Mohanty spearheaded an effort to establish an independent medical school here, to be called the Louisiana University of Medical Sciences.

His dream never came to fruition, but “that was a dream worth pursuing,” Trevedi said.

Mohanty’s son, Bijoy, said his father was one of the most optimistic people he has ever known.

“All his life he was dedicated to peace and improving the human condition,” Mohanty said.

Visiting will be held from 4 p.m. until the service at 6 p.m. Saturday, March 8, at Resthaven Funeral Home, 11817 Jefferson Highway.

Rama Mohanty is survived by his wife, Anasuya Mohanty; son, Bijoy Mohanty; daughter, Lipika Mohanty and her husband, Kendall Kearns; granddaughter Allyson M. Aladana and brothers Dr. Purna Mohanty and Dr. Surendra Mohanty.