Oberlin Philosophy Professor Tim Hall Dies Unexpectedly


Photo Courtesy of the Oberlin Philosophy Department

Associate Professor of Philosophy Tim Hall, 48, who died July 23.

Jackie Brant, Opinions Editor

Editor’s Note: This article contains mention of suicide.

Oberlin community members, family, and friends suffered the unexpected loss of Associate Professor of Philosophy Timothy Hall, 48. Hall passed away at 6 a.m. July 23. Coroners suspect suicide. Students were informed of his death in an email sent by Dean of Arts and Sciences Tim Elgren July 24.

After earning an undergraduate philosophy degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and receiving his doctorate in philosophy from UCLA, Hall taught at the University of Vermont and Yale University. He then taught at Oberlin for 16 years, specializing in political philosophy and ethics. He was tenured at Oberlin in 2007.

Hall is remembered for his commitment to challenging students’ preconceived notions around politics and philosophy, and for his passion for animal rights and freedom of speech.

“He was praised by his students for his demanding courses, creating an engaging learning environment, and an enduring interest in them and their development,” wrote Elgren in the email announcing Hall’s death. “He will be remembered by his students and colleagues as one who was deeply committed to the importance of exploring diverse perspectives on society’s most challenging issues, a core value of the liberal arts.”

As a proud and outspoken member of the Libertarian Party, Hall taught a seminar called Libertarianism and its Critics which challenged students about topics concerning “gun prohibition, socialized health care, and state paternalism.”

Hall served as the faculty advisor for Oberlin College Republicans and Libertarians and also as the faculty advisor to the Oberlin Animal Rights group. He supervised the Ronald Reagan Political Lectureship Series and was an Oberlin Debate Series committee member.

The news of Hall’s death jarred many students who were close to him and had planned to take courses with him this fall.

“I’m still in shock,” said Christian Daahir, OC ’17, a former member of the OCRL. “He was a mentor and dear friend. I will never forget the occasions in which we discussed politics and philosophy. He seemed to get a kick out of my humor. Seeing him laugh at my jokes was always a pleasure. He will not be forgotten.”

Current and former students expressed that Hall was charismatic in the classroom and that his teaching style of challenging Oberlin students’ perspectives of the world is one of the things that made him so beloved by those he taught.

“Professor Hall made sure that every student knew that their thoughts and opinions had value, even if he did not agree with them,” said College sophomore Jenna Gyimesi. “He dedicated himself to understanding and developing the ideas of his students regardless.”

“Tim was my model for intellectual diligence, philosophical precision, and broad, learned scholarship,” said Adam Vogel, OC ’06, in a post on the Oberlin Philosophy Department’s Facebook page. “His erudition on so many subjects inspired me. Ten years after graduating, I still reflect on and continue to learn from our conversations.”

Students and alumni took to social media to share memories of Hall. Some of the most common memories relayed on these sites include Professor Hall bringing in his pet parrot to classes for the day and his passionate defense of animal rights and veganism.

Many former students were worried about what would happen to his parrot, Maddie, as she was “like his baby girl,” according to Stephanie Malik, OC ’09.

Taylor Reiners, a friend of the Hall family, reached out through a memorial Facebook group to reassure friends that Maddie has found a loving home.

“[Maddie’s new owner] said that she would be honored to have Maddie in the family and would treat her as Tim [Hall] did,” said Reiners, who was quoting Hall’s brother. “She has known Maddie her whole life and has cared for her that entire time. It seems like the right option.”

Both alumni and current students came together to organize a memorial symposium in Hall’s honor through the Tim Hall Memorial Symposium group on Facebook. In this group, members have compiled a folder on Google Drive to share memories of Hall, including photos, writings, and syllabi for classes he taught. The symposium is projected to occur in March, though specific dates have not yet been determined.

Symposium attendees will include both former students and colleagues. The dinner served at the event will be vegan in his memory. Organizers also plan to collect funds to pay for Hall’s parents’ and brother’s transportation to attend the event.

In addition to the symposium, there will also be a memorial service for Professor Hall Sept. 20 at noon in the Root Room in the Carnegie Building. Professor Katherine Thomson-Jones will be emailing alumni and former students with a request for tributes for the service.

Hall is survived by his parents, John and Maureen Hall; his brother, Brian Hall; and his parrot Maddie.