Dr. Stephen Albert Harmon, 75, of Pittsburg, passed away at 4:49 p.m., Saturday, December 26, 2020, at the Via Christi Hospital, Pittsburg.
He was born June 15, 1945, in St. Louis, MO, the son of James (Jim) and Alice (Jameton) Harmon.
He is survived by his wife, Olive L. Sullivan.
Dr. Harmon was an associate professor of African and Middle Eastern history at Pittsburg State University. He completed his Ph.D. in West African Islamic history at the University of California at Los Angeles, where he researched French colonial rule in Islamic West Africa. He was a two-time Fulbright scholar and did extensive field research in Senegal and Mali. He is the author of several articles in professional journals and anthologies, and the book Terrorism and Insurgency in the Sahara-Sahel Region: Corruption, Contraband, Jihad and the Mali War of 2012-2013. After 9/11, his field gained new importance globally and he was consulted as a regional expert by numerous domestic and international news agencies.
He was a popular speaker who presented at national and international conferences as well as for local groups. He spoke several languages, notably French, Spanish, Bambara, and Arabic. He earned a grant to internationalize the curriculum at Pittsburg State that helped lay the foundation for Pittsburg State’s PSU in Paraguay program, part of the Kansas Paraguay Partnership. He also worked in conjunction with PSU’s Military Science program, helping prepare soldiers with the cultural and historical background they would need while serving in the Middle East. His students remember him as rigorous but fair, and as a great storyteller who made history come alive.
He greatly enjoyed traveling and teaching in South America. He and Olive also led student groups to Paris, and they enjoyed world travel together. He began traveling as a young man, when he spent a year in Madrid, Spain, studying at the university. From Spain he continued on to teach English in Japan, traveled the Trans-Siberian Railroad and eventually returned to Spain, the place where he came of age.
In the summer of 1968, he and first wife, Fritzi Drosten, traveled to San Francisco with the intention of staying for two weeks. They fell in love with California and he lived there for the next two decades.
While researching his thesis project in Mali, he met Bintou Traore (deceased), who would become his second wife.
In the early 1990s, he moved to Pittsburg to begin teaching at PSU. In 2000, he met Olive and they married in 2014.
He also enjoyed fly-fishing, a hobby he was able to share with his sons and grandchildren. He also loved cooking and enjoying food and wine with his many friends. For several years he hosted a twice-yearly asado, a Paraguayan style barbecue, which brought together the local community and students from several countries who enjoyed his hospitality.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by his stepmother, Esperanza “Hope” Harmon of El Paso, TX; children Cyrus (Amy) Harmon of Bolinas, CA, James (Paulina Kostrzewski) Harmon of Honolulu, HI, Mariam Kante of Wichita, KS, Frank (Angel) Abshire of Pittsburg, KS, and Jacob (Patricia) Abshire of Aurora, CO; brother James “Buck” Harmon of Kelowna, British Columbia, sisters Christina (Robert) Holiday of Rohnert Park, CA, Carolyn “Suzy” Lee Olsen of Giogalto, Italy, and Victoria (Philip) Neaves of Edinburgh, Scotland; nieces and nephews Erik (Stacy) Olsen of San Antonio, TX, James Holiday of San Francisco, CA, Travis Harmon of Dover, CA, Caroline Holiday of Rohnert Park, CA, Rebecca (Roberto Mavilla) Olsen of Giogalto, Italy, and Charlotte and Oliver Neaves of Edinburgh; and seven grandchildren, Mark Harmon, Olivia Harmon, Zoe Frederick, Victoria Snyder, Greenleaf Abshire, Ashlynn Abshire and Skylar Reis, as well as numerous grand-nieces and nephews to whom he was very close.
He is preceded in death by his parents and his second wife Bintou Traore Harmon.
A private Celebration of Life for Dr. Harmon will be held on Monday, Jan. 11. The service is closed to the public but will be available on the Brenner Mortuary website through Dr. Harmon's obituary page. Friends may leave condolences online at www.brennermortuary.com. Arrangements are under the direction of the Brenner Mortuary, Pittsburg, KS.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Dr. Stephen A. Harmon, please visit our floral store.