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Thursday, February 14, 2013

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Retired Philosophy Chair Baine Harris Dies; Memorial Service Is Feb. 16

Ransom Baine Harris, of Portsmouth, Eminent Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Old Dominion, died Feb. 6, 2013. He was 85.

Born in Hudson, N.C., Harris joined the ODU faculty in 1973 and retired as chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies in 1995.

He was invited to this area in 1960 to help plan the curriculum for the new Frederick College, which was later donated by Fred Beazley to the state of Virginia and became Tidewater Community College. He later taught at Clemson University and then was chair of philosophy at Eastern Kentucky University before being invited to ODU.

Harris taught philosophy for 38 years and was responsible for 13 major international conferences on Neoplatonism. He was one of the main founders of the International Society for Neoplatonic Studies in 1973. He served as editor of 12 scholarly books published by SUNY Press. He lectured in 26 countries. His studies included 70-plus graduate semester hours in philosophy and 50 graduate semester hours in religious and world religion studies.

Harris made major contributions to defining the nature and scope of the undergraduate program in philosophy at ODU. In particular, he developed a strong religious studies component as an option within the baccalaureate degree. On the graduate level, Harris was instrumental in developing a cooperative arrangement with American University that provided advanced education opportunities for ODU philosophy graduates.

He received an A.A. from Mars Hill College, B.A. and master's degrees from the University of Richmond, B.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, a master's from Emory University and a Ph.D. from Temple University. He was ordained as a Baptist minister as a young man.

What started as a hobby of recording Carillon bells turned into a small business, Hudson Recordings. There are several churches and one courthouse which play Harris' recordings regularly. He found time to establish a retreat in Hudson, N.C., called Ransom's Woods. He continued writing essays until a week before his death.

Baine, as he was known to his family and friends, is survived by his "Favorite" and only wife of 55 years, Ettie Jeanne; his "Favorite oldest daughter," Nancie Elizabeth Laing, her husband, Gregory, and their sons Ian, 21, and Ryan, 12, of Chesapeake; his "Favorite youngest daughter," Lori Ann Harris of Asheville, N.C.; and his sister Betty Williams of Portsmouth. He was preceded in death by his siblings, Ruby Sprinkle, Pearl Killian and Max Harris.

A memorial service will be held at Churchland Baptist Church in Chesapeake at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16. Online condolences may be made at www.lovingfuneralhome.com.

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