ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) – It has been nearly a week since a University of Rochester professor was reported missing. Authorities are still in search of 44-year-old Heikki Rantakari, who was last seen Friday night on Exchange Street.
Police say they believe he may be in danger, and say they aren’t ruling out the possibility of criminality in their investigation.
Colleagues at the Simon Business School, meanwhile, are hoping for a positive outcome and are providing support to the U of R community during this challenging time.
Rantakari was last seen checking in to an Airbnb on Exchange Street, south of Ford Street Friday night. He was reported missing when he did not show to teach a class Saturday morning.
“The feeling is one of worry and anxiety over his well-being. That’s our utmost concern. It’s also quite shocking because it’s a very unusual event. It’s an anomaly,” said Sevin Yetelkin, dean of the Simon Business School at the University of Rochester.
Dean Yetelkin describes Rantakari as courteous and a celebrated teacher— one who always had a good relationship with students.
Rantakari has taught management and economics at the Simon Business School since 2015. According to school leaders, he took a partial leave this semester to teach at MIT in Boston, where he is from.
Investigators searched Rantakari’s Airbnb Tuesday and continue to look for leads in his whereabouts.
Police could not specify why they believe he’s in danger but say there are elements to the investigation they are still working through.
“The obvious is that he flew in here Friday and has been gone since. Nobody has seen him. Nobody has heard from him or talked to him. But then, there’s other things throughout our investigation that we’re not in a position to publicly talk about because we don’t want to get into a position of, if criminality is involved, creating issues within our investigation down the road,” said Lt. Greg Bello of the Rochester Police Department.
Both the university and police continue to rely on the public’s help in bringing Rantakari home safely.
“We’re all hoping for a very swift and safe resolution to this incredibly difficult event. We’ll continue to rely on the community to make sure everyone is supported and we’re able to keep up with the day-to-day operations, but to continue to help to hopefully bring Heikki home,” said Dean Yetelkin.
A spokesperson from MIT has also confirmed to News 8 they are offering their support to RPD in the investigation.
Anyone with more information on Rantakari’s whereabouts is asked to call 911 or the RPD Major Crimes Unit at 585-428-7157.
Full Statement from the University of Rochester
Heikki Rantakari is an Associate Professor of Economics and Management at the University of Rochester’s Simon Business School. He was reported missing after he did not show up to teach a scheduled class on campus on Saturday morning. We thank all local law enforcement agencies and the University of Rochester’s Department of Public Safety in supporting this investigation. We’re asking for the public’s support in reporting anything that relates to Professor Rantakari’s whereabouts by calling 911. The University is hopeful that he is found safe very soon.
Full statement from family
Heikki Rantakari is a hard-working professor and a nice, quiet man personally.
He was last seen Friday 10/20/23 approximately 9-11pm at 1062 Exchange St. (14608). He may have been walking around there and/or surrounding areas.
He is 44 years old, approximately 5’11”, average physique approximately 180lbs., has blonde hair and blue eyes, and a Finnish accent.
If anyone may have seen him or spoken to him, any information from the public regarding his welfare or whereabouts is greatly needed to help find him ASAP.
Any information can be directed to Rochester Police Dept. Major Crimes unit: 585-428-7157.
Thank you so much. Many are praying for his safe return.