LEWISTON, Maine — Preparations are being made to honor the life of a Bates economics professor who died unexpectedly after participating in a Cape Elizabeth triathlon last week.
David Aschauer, 58, of Portland, died Monday, Aug. 22, a day after he had been rescued during the swimming portion of the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust’s seventh annual fundraising triathlon.
Aschauer, a veteran triathlete known among his colleagues and friends for his passion for physical fitness, apparently stopped moving less than 50 yards from the end of the finish line of the race’s swimming portion, said Ted Darling, president of the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust and a primary organizer of the race.
A race volunteer following alongside the participants in a kayak saw Aschauer in trouble. The volunteer and a lifeguard with a flotation board helped bring Aschauer to shore, where he was met by an ambulance and taken to Maine Medical Center in Portland, Darling said.
The cause of his death has not been released publicly.
At the same time as Aschauer’s rescue from the triathlon course, his daughter was herself competing in a separate triathlon in New Hampshire, and one of his sons was climbing Mount Rainier in Washington state, Darling said. Following Aschauer’s death, his family asked the land trust to dedicate next year’s event in his memory, Darling said.
Organizers are “still processing” this year’s triathlon and its tragedy, Darling said, and have not begun to plan for the next race, which will require permission from host Crescent Beach State Park.
But, “we are happy to honor their request,” Darling said. “It would be wonderful to be able to honor David and his family.”
In the more immediate future, Bates College will hold a memorial reception for Aschauer on Sept. 17 at the Edmund S. Muskie archives on the college’s campus, following an 11 a.m. funeral at Saint John the Baptist Church in Brunswick.
Aschauer, who had taught at the school for two decades and was the Elmer W. Campbell Professor of Economics, was “a competitor” in academics as well as athletics, said his colleague James Hughes, the Thomas Sowell Professor of Economics at Bates.
Before coming to Bates, Aschauer worked as an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago. He had also taught at the University of Michigan, and had stints as visiting professor at the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, Bowdoin College and the University of Kiev in Ukraine.
Aschauer’s research in the 1980s on government infrastructure spending and economic productivity is widely cited, Hughes said. He was an authority on economics well before coming to Bates, Hughes said.
He was known on campus as a difficult but involved teacher.
“You didn’t go to David’s class for the easy A,” Hughes said. “You went to be challenged.”
Aschauer’s passing was “very unexpected,” Hughes said. “He was a man in his prime.”
“He’s leaving a big hole in our program, and an even bigger hole in our lives that will be even harder to fill,” Hughes said.
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