Baylor Mourns Passing of Retired History Professor

Oct. 15, 2015
Dr. Paul ArmitsteadDr. Paul Armitstead

WACO, Texas (Oct. 15, 2015) - Baylor University is mourning the passing of Paul T. Armitstead, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of History, who passed away Oct. 13 in Waco. He was 84.

A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16, in the chapel of Wilkirson-Hatch-Bailey Funeral Home, 6101 Bosque Blvd. in Waco. Visitation with family will precede the service at 3 p.m.

A noted presidential scholar, Dr. Armitstead was a member of the Baylor history faculty for more than 40 years.

“A legendary professor, Paul Armitstead’s deep passion for teaching and his love of history touched the lives of generations of Baylor students,” said Kimberly R. Kellison, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the department of history. “Fiercely dedicated to academic freedom, Dr. Armitstead challenged his students to view history – and life – critically and reflectively.”

A native of Rochester, New Hampshire, Dr. Armitstead earned his bachelor’s degree while attending the University of Nebraska on a naval scholarship. After he served on active duty in the U.S. Navy, he received his master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Texas with assistance from the GI Bill. He joined the Baylor faculty in 1961 and taught until his retirement in 2002.

“Paul was my best friend and colleague at Baylor,” said Rufus B. Spain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of History, who taught at Baylor from 1957 to 1988. “His most valuable contribution to Baylor was his excellent teaching. Thousands of students will remember him for his profound knowledge of history (including ‘trivia’) and his unique and refreshing presentations in the classroom.”

“From the time of his arrival at Baylor in 1961 until his retirement in 2002, Paul Armitstead remained dedicated to the ideal of effective undergraduate teaching,” said James M. SoRelle, Ph.D., professor and undergraduate program director in history. “The course he developed on the History of the American Presidency was legendary and drew students from across the campus regardless of major. Paul loved presidential rankings, and so it would be appropriate to suggest that he deserves to be ranked in the top echelon of professors in the history of our department.

“We are saddened by his passing but grateful for his many contributions not only to the department of history and the university but to the more than 10,000 Baylor students whose lives were touched in positive ways by sitting in his classroom,” Dr. SoRelle said.

As noted in his obituary, Dr. Armitstead’s “great joy was to teach, and he frequently expressed his gratitude that he was part of an institution which allowed him to do that. Early in his career, with his colleagues in the 1960s, he was instrumental in encouraging Baylor to take the progressive step of admitting students of all racial and ethnic backgrounds a year before the U.S. Congress passed the Civil Rights Act.”

In 1996, Dr. Armitstead received the Robert L. Reid Award for Distinguished Teaching that recognizes outstanding contributions in instruction in the humanities. He was cited by the selection committee for the numerous contributions he made during his years at Baylor, including his "sound, sensitive support" of students and faculty members and his "strong academic standing."

In 2007, he was presented with the Herbert H. Reynolds Award for Exemplary Service for adding to the university’s heritage and traditions through his service and dedication to Baylor students.

Among his survivors are his daughters, Brooke Fernandez and husband, Horacio, of Houston, and Dana Armitstead of Hunt, Texas.

Memorials may be made to the national or local Alzheimer’s Association or the Baylor University History Department’s Charles Edmondson Historical Lecture Series, One Bear Place #97050, Waco, TX 76798-7050.

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