News Center

Professor and Dean Emeritus Dr. John H. Churchill, 1949-2019

Jean and John Churchill_April2015_2893_byShawnJohnson_web.jpg

Jean and John Churchill during an April 2015 visit to campus. Photo courtesy Shawn J. Johnson.

CONWAY, Ark. (November 18, 2019) – The Hendrix College community is saddened by the Nov. 16 passing of Dr. John Hugh Churchill, who served as a professor of philosophy, vice president of academic affairs and dean of the College, and twice as interim president in his 24 years at Hendrix.

He served the College from 1977 to 2001, and retired in 2013 as Executive Secretary of Phi Beta Kappa in Washington, D.C. The College is grateful to Dr. Churchill for his tireless service, his numerous contributions to the academic reputation of Hendrix, and his enduring support of Hendrix’s liberal arts heritage.

W. Ellis Arnold III ’79, senior executive vice president and general counsel for the College, first met Churchill as a student, in a philosophy class Churchill taught at Hendrix. Arnold later worked with him as a colleague in the administration.

“Throughout that entire time and beyond, John’s joy for life and family along with his passion for the liberal arts were contagious and inspiring,” Arnold told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “His smile was infectious, his wit was sharp but never piercing and his enthusiasm for storytelling was captivating. I have never known a more beloved and admired member of the Hendrix community. He is truly a Hendrix legend.”

As news of Churchill’s death spread over the weekend, tributes began appearing on social media, with scores of Hendrix alumni sharing memories of their beloved professor and mentor.

“John was something special,” wrote Shawn Johnson ’98 in a post on Facebook. “He could write and speak essays on some of the most complex questions of our time, but he also was relatable. He could speak about pop culture, poetry, sports, politics. He was a Renaissance man in his own right. And by all accounts, he was a masterful administrator and leader.”

“He gave us tools to help us expand our own minds for a lifetime of questions and new arguments. A course in philosophy taught by a brilliant instructor is what likely creates a lifelong search for new information, a hunger for knowledge,” wrote Stacy Sells ’82 in a Facebook post. “Thank you, Dr. Churchill, for gifting me the verve for inquiry.”

“He was handsome, burly and loud with a laugh that could be heard in the adjacent county,” wrote Paul Bowen ’78 in a blog post. “He didn’t so much lecture as he imposed the force of his personality onto the classroom. If anybody was a natural born teacher it was John Churchill. I can see him now writing stuff on the board at 90 miles an hour with his back to the class yelling about the stuff that was going up. He would then face the class and poke the chalkboard behind him for emphasis while his glasses slid down his nose.

“Boy he was something.”

A celebration of Dr. John Churchill's life will be held Saturday, Nov. 23 at 11 a.m. in  Greene Chapel. A reception will follow in Trieschmann Gallery.

Watch Churchill’s 2015 Pre-Inaugural Address, delivered the weekend of the inauguration of Dr. William M. Tsutsui as President of Hendrix College.

Read a philosophical reflection on football from Churchill, with a photo of him from his college football days.

A remembrance of the Raney Building, site of many classes Churchill taught.