|Appalachian School of Law Shootings|
Fri, 18 Jan 2002
Alfonso A; Castillo
He was just 20 at the time, but even at that young age Anthony Sutin was tackling huge responsibilities.
At the Brookhaven Country Day Camp, where Sutin worked several summers in the early 1980s, the job of kitchen manager usually was reserved for older, more experienced people, but camp owner Neil Pollack knew it was in good hands with Sutin.
“He was just so organized and such a bright, bright kid,” Pollack said. “He was well liked by everyone.” Relatives and colleagues said the only thing greater than the Bellport native’s desire to achieve was his desire to give back. It was the latter that led Sutin, 42, to walk away from a job as a high-ranking attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice to serve as a dean at a small, upstart Virginia law school.
In the end, one of the people who had most benefited from Sutin’s compassion was the one who Virginia police said ended his life.
Police said Peter Odighizuwa, 42, stormed into Sutin’s office at Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Va., Wednesday and shot him once with a .380-caliber pistol. He then shot and killed another professor and a student and wounded three others before being restrained by students, according to police. Odighizuwa faces three counts of capital murder and related weapons charges.
The student was upset over news that he was being kicked out of school, police said. Just one year earlier, Odighizuwa had flunked out of school, but Sutin was there to open the door for him to return.
“That’s typical of him,” said Pollack.
Yesterday, Bellport residents remembered Sutin’s years as a starry-eyed overachiever. During his years as a student at Bellport High School, Sutin worked on several environmental causes as a member of the school’s Students for Environmental Quality and lobbied to enact New York’s bottle deposit program.
“He was clearly going to go some place,” said Arthur Cooley, a board member of the Manhattan-based Environmental Defense Fund and Sutin’s former high school biology teacher.
After graduating with honors as the school’s valedictorian in 1977, Sutin attended Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. He graduated in 1981 with a bachelor’s degree in policy and economics and then enrolled in Harvard Law School, where he graduated in 1984.
After law school, Sutin clerked in a U.S. District Court in Dallas, then joined the Washington, D.C., law firm of Hogan & Hartson. Sutin’s passion for politics led him to work on Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign and ultimately landed him a job in the U.S. Justice Department in 1994.
Sutin rose through the ranks over the next four years, eventually becoming assistant attorney general for legislative affairs in 1998.
Friends said Sutin had close ties with top-ranking officials in the Clinton administration and was all but guaranteed a long and lucrative career as a Washington player, but he walked away from it all when the opportunity to help establish a law school in a small and desolate Virginia community arose.
“He could have been anything. He was so tied in,” said former neighbor and close friend Rachel Alberts of Grundy, Va. “But he really felt that everyone … had an obligation to take care of the community.”
Sutin’s mother, Bonita Sutin of Bellport, said her son’s compassion extended into his personal life. He and his wife, Margaret Lawton, who also taught at the school, adopted their son, Henry Alexander, 4, from Russia several years ago, and just two weeks ago traveled to Russia to adopt a daughter, Clara Li Bessyes.