Duquesne students, faculty mourn death of associate professor of theology

Courtesy of Duquesne University Theology Department | Marinus Iwuchukwu (middle) is seen laughing during the African Affiliates Workshop in September 2017. Iwuchukwu was found dead Tuesday morning at his home on Thorncrest Drive in Wilkins Township.

Luke Henne, Emma Polen & Zach Petroff | Staff Editors

Jan. 19, 2023

Duquesne University students and faculty are mourning the death of Marinus Iwuchukwu, an associate professor in the school’s theology department, who died Tuesday morning.

Allegheny County officials identified Iwuchukwu, 59, and his wife of five-plus years, Charte Dunn, 50, inside their home on Thorncrest Drive in Wilkins Township Tuesday. Allegheny County Police received a call from a third party at 9:53 a.m. requesting that police “check on the well-being of a couple who were engaged in a violent domestic [incident] inside their home.”

“The third party learned that the male had been stabbed. The female remained inside the residence with a firearm,” police said in a news release. “Wilkins Police, along with neighboring departments, responded to the scene and hailed the residence. When officers did not receive a response, they requested the assistance of County Police SWAT.”

Allegheny County records showed that the couple married on July 17, 2017.

Family court records show that Iwuchukwu filed for divorce on July 2, 2020. The proceedings had not been finalized.

“Both the male and female appeared to have sustained lacerations, and the female sustained an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound,” police said. “Homicide detectives responded to the scene and initiated an investigation.”

Neighbors, Kimberly and Carl Mosley, were shocked by the news. Kimberly said that Iwuchukwu was “an upstanding neighbor” and that “no one saw it coming.”

“I’m still looking across the street,” Carl told The Duke. “There’s no words, really. I’m kind of speechless, because he was a good guy.”

An official statement released by the university on Wednesday said, “Our thoughts and prayers are with Dr. Iwuchukwu and his colleagues, students, friends and loved ones, and we are focused on ensuring our community has whatever help they may need.”

Students and faculty from across the campus community shared how Iwuchukwu impacted their time at Duquesne.

In the theology department, the friends Iwuchukwu made expressed their relationship with the professor and praised his advocacy work.

Marisa Captline, a student aide in the theology department, worked for Iwuchukwu during his tenure as the department’s chair, which lasted through the beginning of the spring 2022 semester.

She described him as being “genuinely, just such a kindhearted person.”

“He was so sweet, always curious about what was happening in my life,” Captline said. “He was always so happy to talk about his life as well. When he was in the office, he would ask how you were, and even if you asked first, he would wait for an answer from you before he answered about himself.”

Over this past summer, Iwuchukwu asked the theology office aides to take care of a tree he kept in his office while he went away to England.

“I was charged with doing that,” Captline said.

After Iwuchukwu returned from his trip, Captline continued to look after the plant.

“It looks pretty alive,” she said.

Now, the office aide will continue to keep Iwuchukwu’s tree alive and watch it grow.

Maintaining the wellbeing of his friends and faculty seemed to be a cornerstone of Iwuchukwu’s life work, and his theology staff recalled how this was especially visible during his six years as chair of the department.

James Bailey, the current chair of the theology department, called Iwuchukwu a “fierce defender of the department. He really…stood up when it was necessary.”

Bailey said his department chair predecessor handled the position by becoming a “protector” of his staff.

“You really felt that he had your back or that he would have your back if need be,” Bailey said.

Iwuchukwu handled every need of his staff with great importance.

“He had the best interest of us and the best interest of the department in mind. It wasn’t about him,” Bailey said. As department chair, “you don’t win every battle. But he tried.”

Daniel Scheid, the director of undergraduate studies in the department of theology, has worked closely with Iwuchukwu on class curriculum.

No matter his time commitments as chair, Iwuchukwu was always ready to help his staff succeed. “He always had an open door and was welcoming regardless of the concern, personal or academic.”

Scheid and his wife are both staff members at Duquesne, and at the time, they were scheduled to teach on opposite days of the week. When Scheid brought this concern up to his chair, Iwuchukwu was accommodating about their schedule.

“It’s a little way, but [he was concerned with] whatever would make people’s ability to teach here and work here [better],” Scheid said.

Iwuchukwu was known for being an advocate for dialogue between religious communities, specifically the Muslim and Christian communities in northern Nigeria, the country where he is originally from.

In fact, before coming to Duquesne, Iwuchukwu taught at a public college in Kano, Nigeria, for 12 years, according to a biography on the Duquesne University website. He also earned his Ph.D. in systematic theology and M.A. in journalism from Marquette University.

During his studies and faculty time at Duquesne, Iwuchukwu published two books about the importance of peaceful communication among adversaries. His advocacy work for meaningful dialogue between Christian and Muslim communities led Iwuchukwu to create the Consortium for Christian-Muslim Dialogue (CCMD) and lead the 2014 “Humanity Day Award” at the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh, Pa.

At Duquesne, Iwuchukwu taught courses in world religions and culture, as well as about interreligious dialogue.

Leigh Merski and Emily Pye had Iwuchukwu as a professor for a “Religion, Media and Pop Culture” course in the spring 2022 semester. Merski said that he was “definitely one of the best professors I’ve had at Duquesne.”

“I would describe Dr. Iwuchukwu as a charismatic professor who could make any lecture not only exciting, but also relevant and important,” Merski said. “He truly cared about getting to know his students, and valued everyone’s thoughts and opinions.”

Pye said that Iwuchukwu was “one of the sincerest and fun-loving professors” that she’s had in her time here.

“When I was in Dr. Iwuchukwu’s class, he would greet each person individually at the beginning of class, and asked them specific questions about things happening in their lives,” Pye said.

A member of the swim team, she said that Iwuchukwu would often notice her wet hair in a bun before proceeding to ask how her practice was or when the team’s next meet was taking place.

“Over the course of the semester, our class developed inside jokes about personal things we discussed in his classroom,” Pye said. “He would often joke with us, and his laugh always put a smile on my face.

“In my four years of college, I have met very few professors that can foster that type of environment in their classrooms. Dr. Iwuchukwu was truly a one-of-a-kind professor and person, and he will be greatly missed by the Duquesne and Pittsburgh community,” she said.

Iwuchukwu was always concerned about everyone, according to Charles Gilmer, a Ph.D. candidate and teaching fellow in theology.

“I did see him last week in his office right down there,” Gilmer said. “And he seemed to be in good spirits.”

Iwuchukwu was always in good spirits, according to Bailey. He would sometimes have the latest soccer match open on his computer in his office. His “playful and funny” attitude came from the same place as his interest to create peaceful dialogue among religions.

“Faith informed everything he was doing. It was central to who he was as a human being,” Bailey said. “He modeled a certain kind of way of being Christian…I think [it came with] just a deep and profound respect for human beings,” Bailey said.

Iwuchukwu will be remembered by the Duquesne and wider faith-filled community as a man whose core values were always exemplified in his actions and in his academic writing.

Classes that Iwuchukwu was teaching this semester will continue with a different professor from the theology department who is currently undecided, according to Bailey.

The official statement released by the university offered the counseling center, campus ministry and the health center to help the community in wake of the shocking news.

There will be a memorial service for Iwuchukwu in the university chapel, but an official date and time will be decided on soon.