Stjepan Pečenić, originally from the city of Split in Dalmatia, came to Southern Michigan University in 1981 to teach mathematics. Dr. Pečenić claimed that the Yugoslav government had been persecuting him for his political beliefs; that argument got him asylum, but word had it that was just a glossy cover story. Dr. Cvijić in Engineering was particularly outspoken in her claim (inherited from her father) that Pečenić had been forced to flee after the death of his patron, Tito, and that he’s been a loyal party man until power struggles had forced him out.

In the mathematics department and among his students, Pečenić was known as the “Ragin’ Croatian” for his heavily accented outbursts in which he would rail semi-intelligibly against everything from the laziness of his students to the lack of creativity in his peers to the administration’s short-sighted reluctance to raise his salary. Most students hoped they didn’t get him, and Pečenić was happy to oblige, preferring research to teaching.

That said, nobody was quite expecting to find him face-down on his desk one Monday morning with a particularly difficult set of linear equations soaking up his lifeblood. He’d been shot in the temple at close range.