The top assistant to the president of California State University, Long Beach, apparently despondent over health problems, died early Friday of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, officials said.
Eugene Leon Asher, 58, was found dead at his home at 38 58th Place in the Belmont Shore area at 10:41 a.m., authorities said. His wife, Bonnie, who was inside the home at the time, telephoned paramedics.
"He had a life-threatening disease," Mrs. Asher said. She identified it as Crohn's disease, a chronic and painful inflammation of the lower portion of the small intestine that can be fatal if not treated.
Asher, who friends said was also depressed over failing eyesight, was executive assistant to university President Stephen Horn, handling community relations.
Asher, the father of two daughters, was a close ally of Horn. Horn, under fire from the state Board of Trustees, announced two months ago that his resignation would take effect July 1, leaving the future of Asher and other members of Horn's administration in doubt.
Asher, who joined the faculty in 1958 as a history professor before moving into administration in 1976, recently announced his intention to return to teaching.
Long Beach police said Asher was found by his wife on the bed in the downstairs bedroom. He had shot himself with a handgun. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Asher's wife told police they had breakfast together and he appeared "normal in spirits," Long Beach Lt. Howard Jenkins said. "She heard a noise but she didn't know what it was. Then she went in the house and found her husband,"
John Beljan, vice president for academic affairs, said that Asher had left instructions several months ago that in the event of his death, comment be limited to a brief press release from the university. Such a release was issued Friday, describing his death as a great loss to the university, Beljan said.