Harrison Pemberton Jr. died Nov. 16


Harrison J. Pemberton Jr., professor of philosophy emeritus at Washington and Lee, died on Nov. 16, 2017, in Lexington, at age 92. He was widely beloved by family and friends for his kindness and generosity as well as his incredible intellect, wisdom and wit.

Pemberton was born on March 3, 1925, in Orlando, Fla., to Frances and Harrison Pemberton.  He served in the Army during World War II in New Guinea, the Philippines and the occupation forces of Japan. He then obtained his B.A. in philosophy in 1949 from Rollins College, and his M.A. (1951) and Ph.D. (1953) from Yale University.

Pemberton worked as an instructor at Yale from 1951 to 1954; an assistant professor at the University of Virginia from 1954 to 1962; and a visiting associate professor at the University of Texas in 1962. Beginning in 1962, Harry taught courses at W&L for 42 years in the history of philosophy, Plato and existentialism and became widely recognized as one of the world’s foremost authorities on Plato. He wrote an acclaimed book, “Plato’s Parmenides: The Critical Moment for Socrates” (1984) while living in Greece in a stone cottage overlooking the ocean.

“Harry Pemberton enjoyed a long and fruitful career at W&L,” said President Will Dudley. “For over four decades, he inspired students with his love of philosophy and of international study. Professor Pemberton exemplified the best of what we seek in our teacher-scholars.”

Another book, “The Buddha Meets Socrates: A Philosophical Journal” (2008), detailed the five weeks in 2004 that Pemberton spent teaching Western philosophy to young Buddhist monks at the Shri Diwakar Vihara Buddhist Research and Educational Institute in Kalimpong, India. He accepted the post immediately after his retirement from W&L at the suggestion of Shamar Rinpoche, the second-highest-ranking lama of the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. Pemberton also tutored privately one of the students, His Holiness the Karmapa, the head of the Karma Kagyu school.

Pemberton was predeceased by his loving parents and by his sister and lifelong friend, Louise Pemberton Guerry. He is survived by nephews Zan and Pem Guerry and niece Chappell Kane.


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