Dr. Louis J. Cantori, a Middle Eastern scholar, author and former professor of political science who taught at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County for more than three decades, died of heart failure Monday at his Hunting Ridge home. He was 73.
Dr. Cantori was born and raised in Haverhill, Mass., and served in the Marine Corps from 1951 to 1955, where he attained the rank of sergeant. He earned a bachelor's degree in international relations from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1961.
He was a graduate of the University of Chicago, where he earned a master's degree in political science in 1962 and his doctorate in political science in 1966. He continued his education at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, where he studied Islamic philosophy.
Dr. Cantori was an assistant professor in the political science department at the University of California at Los Angeles from 1966 to 1972, when he joined the UMBC faculty. He served as chairman of the political science department from 1979 to 1985.
"Lou was an expert in Middle Eastern affairs and was passionate about teaching and his students. He worked hard at building a culture here of high achievement and believed deeply in educating the whole person," said Freeman A. Hrabowski III, UMBC president.
"He had extraordinary inner strength and was focused. He had a strong moral compass and always spoke with great conviction," Dr. Hrabowski said.
Dr. Cantori also was faculty adviser to UMBC's rowing team.
"He was a passionate advocate for crew and worked hard to get my support for the team. He firmly believed in the principle of the scholar-athlete," Dr. Hrabowski said.
In a 2005 interview with The Retriever, the UMBC student newspaper, at the time of Dr. Cantori's retirement, Dr. Hrabowski recalled his colleague's political shrewdness.
At one of the crew team's first regattas, Dr. Cantori had the college president's name painted on a racing shell.
"Who wants to see his name last in a race?" Dr. Hrabowski told the paper. "It was a brilliant way to get me to give them more money."
In an e-mail to the college community concerning Dr. Cantori's death, Cheryl Miller, associate professor and chairwoman of the department of political science at UMBC, wrote, "Lou was one of the greatest gifts to higher education. ... His scholarship, teaching and mentoring had enormous impact on the lives and careers of hundreds of UMBC students."
"No matter the length of time anyone spent in Lou's orb, it really became clear that he cast a giant shadow. Lou's zest and love for life, teaching, politics informed by rationalism and fairness, and UMBC are the stuff of legend," she wrote.
Dr. Arthur T. Johnson, UMBC provost and friend of many years, described Dr. Cantori as "larger than life."
"You always knew when Lou was in a room. He loved debating, and he enjoyed discussing ideas," Dr. Johnson said. "He was a real pioneer and helped make UMBC the important institution it is today."
In addition to his work at UMBC, Dr. Cantori had held visiting professorships at the U.S. Military Academy, Air Force Academy, Marine Corps University, American University, University of Pennsylvania and McCormick Theological Seminary.
He had been a consultant to the U.S. Agency for International Development and was a visiting lecturer to the State Department.
Dr. Cantori was the author, co-author or editor of four books on the Middle East and comparative politics. He also wrote articles on Middle Eastern issues and at his death was completing work on his latest book, Statism and the Emergence of the Modern Arab State.
Fluent in Arabic, French and German, Dr. Cantori led a nationwide group of professors for many years to Egypt, Israel, Iraq, Sudan and the Sinai peninsula in hopes of fostering cultural and political understanding.
He was a founding member of the American Council for the Study of Islamic Societies, and the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy, and had been provost of the School of Islamic and Social Sciences near Leesburg, Va.
Dr. Cantori was an avid swimmer and was especially proficient in the butterfly, family members said.
He also enjoyed reading and writing.
Services are private.
Surviving are his wife of 54 years, the former Barbara Joan Nye; two sons, M. Gregory Cantori of Pasadena and Eric L. Cantori of Glenelg; a daughter, Nadia P. Cantori Ward of Fulton; two sisters, Carole Izquierdo and Paula Malady, both of Boston; and nine grandchildren.