In Memoriam: Richard Nunan, Professor of Philosophy, Gender Studies, and Film Studies

It is with great sadness to post here the news of the passing of Dr. Richard Nunan, Professor of Philosophy, Gender Studies, and Film Studies. Richard was a valued member of the Film Studies roster faculty, and he regularly offered courses on Philosophy & Film, and Queer Looks: Lesbian, Gay, and Transgender Portrayals in the Cinema. His passion for film was infectious, and his courses were favorites among our film students. He was also an incredibly passionate advocate of fairness and equity here at the College, as well as a leading voice in faculty self-governance–a true Lion of the Senate, so to speak. I include below the moving statement from Dr. Larry Krasnoff, Chair of the Department of Philosophy:

It is my very sad duty to report that my friend and colleague Richard Nunan, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, died last night. He had been ill with brain cancer since early last summer, and retired from the College in December 2020.

Richard came to the College in 1984, and taught here for 36 years. Though his parents were Irish, he grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. He received his B.A. in mathematics from Vassar College and his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He specialized in political philosophy and especially philosophy of law, and he served as the editor of the American Philosophical Association’s newsletter on philosophy of law for many years. But his scholarship was wide-ranging: his more than 35 published articles also included significant essays in gender studies and in film studies.

His teaching was equally versatile. Though he was happy to teach philosophy of law, he was just as happy to teach classes on such topics as symbolic and modal logic, the representation of LGBT individuals in film, medieval philosophy, and time travel in philosophy, physics, and film. He taught for many years in the Honors Western Civilization colloquium, and there lectured frequently not just on moral and political philosophy but also on the history and philosophy of science.

Richard’s record of service was extensive. He served as chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, as interim chair of the Department of Religious Studies, as pre-law advisor, and as chair of seven different faculty committees. On all of these committees, as a faculty senator, and as the AAUP representative, he was a tireless advocate for the quality of our institution and the importance of shared governance.

In everything he talked and wrote about, Richard combined a skeptical realism about how institutions actually work with an unstinting idealism about how they ought to work. It was an unsettling combination, and Richard was unsparing when things fell short of moral standards, as they so often do. But for all of that, Richard was one of the gentlest and kindest men I have ever met. His contributions to our program and our institution were extraordinary, and he will be very badly missed.

Richard is survived by his wife, Victoria West, his two daughters, Rebecca and Alix, and Rebecca’s husband and children. Given the ongoing pandemic, there are no immediate plans for a memorial service. Contributions in Richard’s memory should be sent to the Scholarship Enrichment Fund here at the College. Notes to Victoria should be sent to 612 McCants Drive, Mt. Pleasant SC 29464.

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