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In memoriam: Guyton Bowers Hammond, professor emeritus of religious studies

July 20, 2016

Guyton Bowers Hammond

Guyton Bowers Hammond, 85, professor emeritus of religious studies at Virginia Tech, died peacefully at his home in Crozet, Virginia, on May 1. He had been treated for cancer for 18 months. A memorial service will be held Friday, July 22 at 11 a.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 400 Rugby Road, Charlottesville.

Hammond taught undergraduate classes in religious studies at Virginia Tech for 38 years and had the distinction of serving as head of two academic units — the Department of Philosophy and Religion from 1978 to 1983 and the Department of Religion from 1983 to 1985. A decade later, in his final year at Virginia Tech, he served as transition leader for the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, the forerunner of the current Department of Religion and Culture.

Hammond’s service at departmental, college, and university levels was extensive, including six years in the Faculty Senate, with two nonconsecutive terms as president. He was elected to membership in both the Academy of Faculty Service and the Academy of Teaching Excellence.

Charles "Chuck" Kennedy, former head of the Department of Religion, summed up Hammond’s long years of service this way: “He has done it all at Tech and for Tech.”

A graduate of Washington and Lee University, Hammond spent a year at the University of Utrecht as a Fulbright scholar. He attended Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, and became an ordained minister in the Southern Baptist Church. After a year, he transferred to Yale Divinity School, where he earned his master’s degree. He then completed his doctorate in theology at Vanderbilt University.

Hammond’s primary research area was the thought of theologian Paul Tillich, resulting in the publication of three books, numerous articles, and many presentations and invited lectures nationally and internationally. He was a founding member of the North American Paul Tillich Society, for which he served terms as president and board member. In addition, he was a member of the national Board of Directors of the American Academy of Religion, for which he also served as regional president.

While in Blacksburg, Hammond was an active public citizen through his service with Blacksburg Presbyterian Church, Cooper House, and the YMCA. In his retirement, he became a founding member of Clergy and Laity United for Justice and Peace. He also enjoyed golf, tennis, and especially singing in choirs and oratorio societies — something he did all his adult life.

Brian Britt, current chair of the Department of Religion and Culture, said, “In all my experiences of him, Professor Hammond was consistently kind, gentle, and thoughtful.”

In 1995, the year Hammond retired, an anonymous donor established in his honor the Hammond Lectureship in Religious Ethics and Society, a semiannual lecture in the Department of Religion and Culture.

Hammond is survived by his wife of 57 years, Jean Love Hammond, originally of Blacksburg; two sons, Bruce Hammond, of Beijing, and Mitchell Hammond, of Victoria, British Columbia; a daughter-in-law, Susan Lewis Hammond; two grandchildren, Zachary and Abigail Hammond; a brother and sister-in-law, Joseph and Edith VanKeuren Hammond; three nieces; and five grandnieces and grandnephews.

In lieu of flowers, contributions in Hammond’s honor may be made to the Hammond Lectureship Fund, in care of the Virginia Tech Foundation.

Written by Elizabeth Struthers Malbon

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