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In Memoriam of Stuart Riggsby

Stuart RiggsbyStuart Riggsby, an ardent supporter of the liberal arts, passed away January 30, 2018. He was 81.

Riggsby, who received his PhD in molecular biology and biophysics from Yale University in 1964, joined the Volunteer family in 1969 as an assistant professor of microbiology. In 1987, he began his journey as a leader in the College of Arts and Sciences when he became associate head of the Department of Microbiology. A decade later, he stepped into the role of associate dean for the college and, by 2003, former Chancellor Loren Crabtree named Riggsby dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Riggsby also served as director of the Tennessee Governor’s School for the Sciences from 1991 to 1994. He retired from the university in 2004 and left quite a legacy.

Although Riggsby’s educational foundation was rooted in the hard sciences, he strongly believed in the value of the humanities. His interests ranged from the history of music and opera to the culture of the Mediterranean. Along with his wife Kate, their support established the Marco Institute for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, which hosts an annual Riggsby Lecture on Medieval Mediterranean History and Culture. Additionally, the Marco Institute’s Library and Reading Room and directorship carry the Riggsby name. In recent years, he also took a strong interest in the establishment of the Tennessee Humanities Center and avidly supported the Department of Theatre.

“You can do an awful lot more supporting programs in the humanities than by supporting, with an equal amount of money, the sciences,” said Riggsby during a 2013 interview when he endowed a professorship in the Department of Theatre.

“Stuart Riggsby was not just a generous supporter of Marco or the dean who played a key role in enabling our institute to become a permanent part of the university and a research center with an international reputation for excellence. Stuart was, for all of us, an inspiration,” says Jay Rubenstein, Riggsby Director of Marco. “His eyes lit up when presented with a new idea or a new historical vista. He encouraged our graduate students, and he set for all of us an unparalleled example.”

Riggsby also loved food and cooking and was an avid chef. According to Professor Jeffrey Kovac, a long-time friend and colleague, Riggsby would go to the University Center Tuesdays and Wednesdays to buy a copy of the New York Times.

“Tuesday’s paper has the science section and Wednesday’s paper has the food section,” Kovac says. “I would often encounter him at Kroger on Saturday doing his grocery shopping. He wrote his shopping lists on old IBM computer cards. His wife, Kate, had worked in the computer center and they must have had boxes of IBM cards.”

Riggsby was a broad and deep thinker, genuine intellectual, and a gentleman in the old-fashioned sense. His legacy in the College of Arts and Sciences will impact generations of scholars. He continued to support the college and impact its success by serving on the Dean’s Advisory Board.

He will be greatly missed. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in his honor to the Marco Institute.