College Laments Loss of Jack Padgett

A memorial service will take place Sunday, February 12, 2:30 p.m., at Silver Maples in Chelsea. A Celebration of Life on the Albion campus is being planned for later this year.

January 21, 2012

Padgett with a Basic Ideas class, 1981

Padgett with a Basic Ideas class, 1981

By Jake Weber

Philosophy professor emeritus Jack Padgett passed away January 20 in Chelsea, Mich., at the age of 85, following a four-year battle with pancreatic cancer.

Padgett came to Albion in 1965 to design and teach the innovative “Basic Ideas” program. “I deeply respected Jack’s commitment to moral and ethical integrity, and to intellectual clarity. He was an outstanding teacher and colleague,” recalled emeritus professor of religious studies Johan Stohl, who also taught Basic Ideas courses. “Jack focused us on ways of drawing our students—and ourselves—into thoughtful and vigorous discussions.”

“Jack Padgett helped Albion crystallize ideas about teaching and learning which are still relevant to our mission and values,” commented Albion College President Donna Randall. “Our reputation as a leader in liberal arts education has been established on the work of visionary professors like Jack.”

Padgett extended his leadership skills to the philosophy department, which he chaired for 14 of the 25 years he spent on Albion’s faculty. A demanding but popular professor, Padgett received Albion’s Outstanding Teacher award in 1975. Padgett traveled to Sarajevo, in the former Yugoslavia, where he spent a semester at the University of Sarajevo as a Fulbright teaching fellow. In 1989 Albion College named him its Phi Beta Kappa Scholar of the Year.

“His direct, down-to-earth, unadorned manner cut straight to the heart of any issue and became the model I emulate,” said Doug Johnson, ’71, retired director of the State of Michigan Administrative Information Network. Johnson further noted that students were also grateful for Padgett’s sense of humor while tackling sometimes controversial subjects. “He made it safe to experiment with ‘the different thought’ without fear of knee-jerk reaction or ridicule,” Johnson stated.

Padgett with Albion colleagues emeritus chemistry professor Jack Crump, emeritus religious studies professor Johan Stohl and emeritus economics and management professor Maurice Branch.

Padgett (left) circa 2008, with Albion colleagues emeritus chemistry professor Jack Crump, emeritus religious studies professor Johan Stohl and emeritus economics and management professor Maurice Branch. All have been neighbors in Chelsea for several years, continuing a decades-long habit of meeting regularly for lunch.

Padgett authored The Concept of Personality in William Temple’s Philosophy and The Christian Philosophy of William Temple, and regularly published research in ethics and moral philosophy. After introducing medical ethics and business ethics into Albion’s curriculum, he was often called upon as a speaker on these relatively new areas. Shortly before his retirement, Padgett presented a paper on Personalism at the World Congress of Philosophy. He continued to lead seminars for adult learners as an emeritus professor, especially on issues related to death and dying.

In the early 1980s Padgett was appointed the first director of Albion’s Center for the Study of Ethics. Padgett was instrumental in having the College’s Observatory (then home of the Ethics Center) recognized as a Michigan Historic Landmark, a designation that was received during Albion’s 150th anniversary celebrations in 1985.

Prior to joining Albion’s faculty, Padgett spent six years as director of the Vital Center Program and philosophy professor at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa. While there he supported the civil rights effort by joining a group delivering office supplies to the Freedom School in Indianola, Miss.

For many years, Padgett also chaired the ethics committee on the board for Hospice Care of Battle Creek. In retirement, he continued as a fan of University of Michigan and Albion College athletics.

As a teen, Padgett enlisted in the Marine Corps; he was a veteran of the Battle of Okinawa and received a Purple Heart. He graduated from Juniata College and earned a graduate degree from Boston University School of Theology and a doctorate in philosophy from Boston University.

Padgett is survived by his college sweetheart and wife of 62 years, Katharine (“Kitty”); children Deborah (Gary Nickel) of Plymouth, Wis.; Susan (Rick) White of Springfield, Vt.; Stephen of Seattle, Wash.; and Thomas of Sparks, Nev.; and grandchildren Katie and Grant White and Allie and Emma Padgett as well as many loving nieces and nephews.

Padgett will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery. Memorial contributions are suggested to the Jack Padgett Award in Philosophy at Albion College or to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

Caring Bridge Web site for Jack Padgett: