One of my professors from the University of Utah, Donald P. Hartmann, recently passed away. I took one of Don’s advanced classes as an undergraduate and, during that class (with about 8 students in it), he invited me to consider doing some research. I later joined his Peer Lab and spent quite a bit of time learning the ins and outs of academic scholarship: interviewing kids, coding data, reading peer-reviewed articles, etc. In many ways, I have Don Hartmann (and Francis Friedrich) to thank for my academic career today.
Here is my condolence I added to Don’s obituary in The Salt Lake Tribune:
Add me to the list of students Don mentored over his many years as a faculty member at the University of Utah.
I took one of Don’s child development courses and, toward the end, Don asked me to consider joining his research team. As a naive kid from rural Utah, I owe a lot to Don and his guidance and mentoring.
I learned the importance of reaching out to students, particularly those who may not know how the academy works.
I learned that calling yourself a Druid was a successful tactic to prevent evangelism; a tactic that no doubt came in handy in Utah more than once!
I learned that academic conferences are for more than sharing research; they are the academic’s opportunity to see and experience the world (Don taught me this in New Orleans).
I learned the importance of not taking things too seriously and trying to see both the humor and absurdity in life.
Finally, I should note that Don and I had a very long discussion about graduate school just before I left Utah. He accurately predicted that I wasn’t going to remain a Mormon for very long if I really did dedicate myself to studying religion from a social scientific perspective. I was incredulous when he said that in his office (the one with spider plants everywhere and a beautiful view of the mountains). But I now look back on that discussion with fondness – he was preparing me for my future without me knowing it.
He will be missed.