Brother Donald Mansir, a professor at Saint Mary's College and a Middle East scholar, died of cancer at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek on Saturday at the age of 62.

Mansir had taught in the college's Integral Program, which focuses on classic texts, since 1998 and frequently led students on trips to the Middle East. He also taught at Bethlehem University and was an adviser to the Vatican on Palestinian issues.

Brother Charles Hilken, a fellow Saint Mary's professor, said despite his wealth of knowledge, Mansir treated students as peers.

"Donald could work with anyone," Hilken said. "Great community builder, very gregarious personality, break out into song in an instant. A very peaceful and kind man."

The San Diego native graduated from Saint Mary's in 1971 and joined the Christian Brothers the following year. Mansir received his master's degree from the University of San Francisco in 1984 and a doctorate in theology from The Union Institute and University in Cincinnati in 1999.

At Saint Mary's, Mansir was a member of the board of trustees, chairman of the Cummins Institute for Catholic Thought, Culture and Action, among other committees, and lived in the residence halls as a counselor.

Mansir was president of the Pontifical Mission for Palestine in the 1990s, assisting in diplomatic and humanitarian missions in Jordan, Palestine and Israel. He was a representative to the United Nations and UNICEF and served in New York and Vatican City as the chief overseas operating officer of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association.

In addition to Saint Mary's and Bethlehem University, Mansir also taught at the Latin Patriarchal Seminary in the West Bank and La Salle High School in Pasadena, and was the principal of San Joaquin Memorial High School in Fresno.

"He's going to be missed by friends and colleagues all over the world," Hilken said. "In Jerusalem, New York, in Fresno, in Rome, in Venice, in Lebanon."

A mass for Mansir will be held at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the college chapel, preceded by a viewing at 6 p.m. Mansir will be buried at the Christian Brothers retreat in Napa on Saturday.

In lieu of flowers, donations to the SMC Christian Brothers Scholarship may be sent to Saint Mary's College, 1928 St. Marys Road, Moraga.

Contact Jonathan Morales at 925-943-8048. Follow him at Twitter.com/sosaysjonathan.