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Obituary | Web Update

Philip Hart, professor emeritus of religion, dies at 87

Published: November 21, 2012, 12:41 am ET
Collegian Reporter

When religion professor Frank Eakin was cleaning his mother’s house after her death, he opened a drawer and stumbled upon a note from former Richmond professor and colleague, Philip Hart, he said.

The note was sent unbeknownst to Eakin to his parents during his undergraduate career, and described the pleasure Hart had felt getting to know him, Eakin said. This anecdote was representative of Hart’s nurturing personality, which is how he will be remembered by the university, Eakin said.

Philip Hart, professor emeritus of religion at the University of Richmond, died on Nov. 3, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s, Eakin said. Hart, a graduate of Richmond, started as director of religious activities for men at Richmond in 1956 and transitioned into a teaching career that lasted 35 years before he retired, he said.

During his time at Richmond, Hart served as the faculty adviser to Omicron Delta Kappa, a national leadership honor society, Eakin said. He was beloved by mentees, who after his retirement, founded the Philip Hart Prize to honor a religion student who excels in both academics and leadership, he said.

Hart thrived at Richmond through teaching and nurturing, Eakin said.

“He was an effective teacher and retained email and phone call relationships with students even after he retired,” Eakin said. “Many students felt quite indebted to him.”
One of those students was Scott Hudgins, a 1985 Richmond College graduate, Eakin said.

“He helped me to trust in my own abilities and insights,” Hudgins wrote in Richmond Times-Dispatch’s obituary guestbook. “As a teacher, he was as challenging and demanding as he was pastoral. I still remember those moments in his classes where the whole world seemed to open up before me.”

Though Hart had served his time as chair of the religion department, he had not particularly enjoyed the pressure, Eakin said. He had always preferred to bond with students, he said.

“He was a humane individual,” Eakin said. “He always had a smile on his face and a good word to say. He helped bring people together cohesively.”

Hart had been known to browse every issue of the alumni magazine and send notes to any former students he read about, Eakin said.

The honor of professor emeritus is bestowed upon an a faculty member by Board of Trustees after retirement as an acknowledgment of his or her contributions to the institution, Eakin said.

Hart had suffered Alzheimer’s for a number of years, Eakin said. He is survived by his wife of 59 years, Jean Padgett Hart, who was his primary caregiver throughout his illness, as well as his two sons, Stephen and John.

Contact reporter Jenna Robinson at jenna.robinson@richmond.edu

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  • Michael Lynch

    Dr. Hart was a wonderful role model, a terrific mentor and a great man. He will be missed.
    Michael Lynch RC 1993