In Memoriam: Dr. Lesley Friedman
Dr. Thomas Brickhouse, LC Philosophy Professor~
For those members of the Lynchburg College community who may not yet know, Dr. Lesley Friedman, my colleague of many years and former chair of the department of philosophy, died on July 9, 2017, after a long and difficult illness. It is, I believe, a universally held opinion among those who knew her that she was one of our very brightest, most dedicated and most admired teachers and scholars. Her keen intelligence and warm personality were evident to all who knew her.
Dr. Friedman joined the LC faculty in 1993, immediately after completing her Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Buffalo. In addition, she completed a program of intensive study in French literature and language from the University of Rennes in France. When Dr. Friedman came to LC, I really expected her to stay only a few years before moving on to a more research-oriented institution. But just as we quickly became attached to her, she became devoted to the college and its people, and she elected to stay with us.
Shortly after her arrival at LC, Dr. Friedman set about improving the intellectual climate on the campus by founding Theoria, the student-run philosophy club dedicated to the discussion of philosophical issues of contemporary interest. From its inception, Dr. Friedman insisted that the meetings of the organization be open to all interested members of the campus community. She served as faculty adviser to this group throughout her career.
Dr. Friedman’s students quickly realized that she was a natural teacher. She had a remarkable ability to explain even the most abstruse concepts and to show why they should be taken seriously. Her students also quickly realized that, above all else, she demanded honesty, respect for the opinions of others and logical rigor in the pursuit of understanding. Her high standards in the classroom, fairness and gift for clarity earned her the Shirley E. Rosser Award for Excellence in Teaching.
In spite of the demands of a heavy teaching load, Dr. Friedman was a dedicated and accomplished scholar. Indeed, she was one who believed that good teaching cannot be separated from exacting scholarly inquiry. The author of numerous articles and reviews on a variety of topics in American and modern philosophy, she was especially well known for her work on the writings of the American philosopher C.S. Peirce. Her expertise in the field brought her to the attention of the National Endowment for the Humanities and she was asked to serve on one of its advisory boards. In addition, she provided editorial advice on a regular basis to the “Journal of the History of Philosophy” and the “Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society.”
No doubt because of her reputation for insightfulness and forthrightness, faculty committees and boards from every corner of the campus sought out Dr. Friedman’s participation. Her exceptional service to LC was recognized in 2003 when she received the Elsie Bock Award for Excellence in Citizenship. In 2011, she was named the John M. Turner Distinguished Chair in the Humanities. The Turner Chair is held by that member of the LC community who best represents the ideals of humanistic teaching and scholarship. Dr. Friedman was only the fifth person to have received that title. Although she received many grants and awards in recognition of her service to the college, she took the greatest pleasure in the successes of her students.
On a more personal note, I simply cannot imagine a finer colleague. I learned a great deal of philosophy from Dr. Friedman. No matter how busy she was, she always had time to listen to my concerns and to give me the benefit of her considered judgment. Although, we agreed – fortunately – about the most important issues involving our discipline and the college, we often argued, as philosophers are wont to do, about how to understand some concept or other. But no matter how long or how vigorously we argued, when we were finished I always knew that our friendship was firmly intact. When she became ill, I and everyone else around her also learned from her perhaps the most important lessons one can learn: lessons about courage, strength and grace.
The faculty, staff and students of LC are immeasurably better off for the 24 years she was a member of our faculty. She will be deeply missed.
Dr. Friedman is survived by the three greatest joys in her life: her husband, Ricky Hugh Davis; her son, Patrick John (P.J.) Skelley and her daughter, Seren Ann Skelley.