Larry Kimmel, Ph.D., professor emeritus of philosophy, died on Feb. 21 at his home in Arroyo Seco, New Mexico, surrounded by family and friends who had been with him for 3 weeks. He was 86.
Kimmel was born in Lincoln, Nebraska on Feb. 1, 1936, attended Lincoln High School and the University of Nebraska. He joined the U.S. Marines in 1956, attended the Naval Aviator School in Pensacola, and became a Marine Pilot in 1958. After completing his time in the Marines, he attended the University of Nebraska for a master’s degree in philosophy, followed by further study at the University of Texas, graduating with a Ph.D. in philosophy in 1968. He was a student of both John Silber and Oets Bouwsma, well known scholars of Philosophy.
Kimmel was the consummate teacher, having taught philosophy for 50 years, most of those at Trinity University. With approximately 60 students per semester, he influenced the lives of over 6,000 students, many of whom still corresponded with him. He was the winner of the Z. T. Scott Presidential Teaching Award from Trinity and was selected a Piper Professor for the state of Texas, a prestigious award for teaching given only to 10 scholars a year.
Kimmel served as chair of the philosophy department from 1970-1979, beginning his post after only four years at Trinity. In the early ’70s, he was also elected to the first academic senate at Trinity as an assistant professor. He traveled the world, spent one year at Princeton, and one year at Christ Church College in Oxford. His publishing record includes more than 125 articles and presentations in philosophy and the humanities.
His second love, after teaching, was the New Mexico mountains of the Taos Ski Valley which he began visiting every summer after 1979. He and his wife purchased a condominium in the TSV and thereafter spent every summer and Christmas vacation in his beloved mountains. Their children grew up skiing, walking, climbing, and discovering the beauties of the forest and its surroundings. Larry and Jessica eventually retired near those mountains, in Arroyo Seco, in 2012 and have made the area their home since.
Kimmel was preceded in death by his parents, Vera Mae and Joseph Ray Kimmel, and his only sister, Kathleen Kimmel Drake. He is survived by his wife of 43 years, Jessica Carter Kimmel, and four children: Joseph Bret Kimmel (Christina), March Stephen Kimmel (Karla), Curtis (Trey) Conway Gunn III, and Victoria Lee Gunn. He also left seven grandchildren: Cameron and Danielle Kimmel (Bret), Grayson, Haydon, Sage, and Sloane Kimmel (March), and Harper Gunn (Trey).
Services will be held at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Arroyo Seco on March 26, 2022 at 10 a.m. led by Larry’s dear friend and spiritual advisor, Deacon Larry Torres. Music will be provided by close friends, John and Billy Archuleta, and old friends, Joe Lazor and Victoria Aarons will speak of Larry’s scholarly life.
Scholar, teacher, Marine, friend, husband, and father, he has touched the lives of so many and will be missed by all. In lieu of flowers, the family asks for contributions to the Taos Community Foundation in Larry’s name.
The Department of Philosophy professors and students share memories of Larry Kimmel:
Larry Kimmel was a brilliant philosopher and an exceptionally engaged teacher, advisor, and friend. When he decided it was time to retire to the mountains in Taos, New Mexico, 12 years ago, he did so reluctantly, knowing he would miss the classroom and interacting with the students most of all. While the Philosophy Department celebrated his retirement, the loss of both a friend and scholar who had contributed so much to the department over 41 years was undeniable.
It was clear to all and by the deluge of well-wishes and thank-you notes from former students delivered to Larry at his retirement reception, that he played a significant part in his students’ lives as well, and that his influence continued to have a positive impact years later. To quote one former student:
From Todd Davis ’89, Ph.D.:
“In classes and in discussion, you introduced so many to the life of the mind and the rigors and joys of critical thought and the interpretation of life itself, its tight confounding knots and beautiful braids, its troubling, suggestive, shadowed thickets and bright, freeing clearings. You exemplified the virtues of the thinker and the practices of critical consciousness. I know that you will continue to do that as you go forward. I hope we continue our conversations, begun between a student and a teacher, now after so many years, grown into that of friends. All the best to you, friend.”
Dr. Kimmel was already teaching philosophy at Trinity when Steven Luper, Ph.D., and Curtis Brown, Ph.D. came to the department directly after completing their doctorates at Harvard and Princeton, respectively. Kimmel referred to them as “the boys.”
Luper recalls his relationship with Larry as fellow scholars and as friends:
Very soon after I came to Trinity University, Larry Kimmel and I became friends. We came together, with other colleagues, to deal with an extraordinarily difficult situation in the philosophy department. We gathered at his house, on his deck, drank his wine, and worked out our plans. Those days are long gone, but I’ll always be grateful for the part he played, the bond we formed, and the times we shared, both while plotting, and later while scuba diving in dark, murky places, looking for lost divers, and engaging in the most personal, hence best, of philosophical discussions. He always held it against me that I philosophized in an analytical way, while he styled his approach as “continental,” but we saw through these differences. We saw each other through these differences.
Goodbye, dear friend.
To share a memory with the family, please visit www.riverafuneralhome.com or email Trinity’s philosophy department at email@example.com.