Beyond Vassar

A Brother's Journey

By Samantha Soper '91

The joy that Reverend Canon Petero A.N. Sabune '77 felt in being named the recipient of the 2003 Time-Out Grant was tempered by the prospect of actually embarking on his long-awaited project. In 1976, Sabune's brother James, then a student at Rutgers Law School and head of the Ugandan Students Association, disappeared on a trip to their homeland of Uganda. Sabune will take this "time-out" to research the last weeks of his brother's life and compile his findings into a book.

In an effort to bring closure to his family — "which has been open and wounded for over 25 years," said Sabune — he is reaching out to people who may have come in contact with his brother shortly before his disappearance. Since starting his research last spring, Sabune has spoken in person with nine people in Uganda and on the phone with over a dozen others in Africa, Europe, the U.S., Canada, Sweden, and Zimbabwe; all were James' friends or colleagues.

The memoir will follow James' life from childhood to his days of student activism in Uganda and the United States, and finally to his decision to take a leave of absence from law school and pursue human rights and justice. "It was this decision that ultimately led to his death at age 31," said Sabune. The book will be aptly named Kucyi, which means "why." Kucyi was also the name of the family dog, Sabune explained, adding, "I remember James' grief on the day Kucyi died."

Sabune's own life's work is tied closely to that of his brother's. As the Vicar for Community Ministry at St. James' Church in New York City, Sabune focuses his teachings on human rights, justice, and reconciliation. (To read more about some of Sabune's community efforts, go to the online additions article)

The 2003 Time-Out Grant is the 15th to be awarded and the first given to a male. In his acceptance letter Sabune wrote, "Thank you for enabling me to live out the dream I have had since 1976, to better understand the circumstances of my brother's life and disappearance. I was at Vassar College when he disappeared, and it is somehow poetic that Vassar will be instrumental in helping me research this part of my family story."

Photo credit: Photos courtesy of Petero Sabune '77

Funds for the Time-Out Grant were donated by an anonymous alumna for alumnae/i who have reached their 40th birthday and who wish to make a career change or take time out to pursue a strongly desired endeavor but lack the financial resources to do so.

Information and application for the Time-Out Grant