Dr. Thomas Lynn “Tom” Auffenberg, a longtime professor of history at Ouachita Baptist University, passed away Aug. 21 at age 65, one day before he was to be honored for 40 years of service at Ouachita.
Dr. Auffenberg, the R. Voyt Hill Professor of History and chair of the history department, began teaching at Ouachita in 1973. It was his first and only teaching position throughout his distinguished career. He was one of three Ouachita professors scheduled to be recognized for their 40-year service milestones during the university’s Aug. 22 Faculty/Staff Banquet.
“Tom Auffenberg literally invested his adult life in his students and colleagues at Ouachita,” said Ouachita President Rex M. Horne, Jr. “For 40 years we benefitted from his love of teaching.
“While he spoke with me about how Ouachita had blessed him, we have always known of our debt to Tom,” Dr. Horne added. “I, like hundreds of others, have been encouraged by his kindness, a timely word, his smile and sense of humor. Tom will be deeply missed but not forgotten.”
Dr. Randall Wight, dean of the Sutton School of Social Sciences, was among Dr. Auffenberg’s longtime friends and colleagues. Describing Dr. Auffenberg as “a teacher extraordinaire, mentor and friend,” he added, “He’s been a Ouachita institution for 40 years. In many ways he was the social center and beating heart of the Sutton School.”
Noting that Dr. Auffenberg was “someone I bounced ideas off of for over a quarter of a century,” Dr. Wight said, “I’ve always trusted his perspective. No one could say it like Tom. He had an extraordinary way of coming to the heart of an idea. He made everyone else feel at home no matter where you were.”
Born in Missouri in 1947 as the only son of Thomas and LaVelle Auffenberg, his family moved to Fort Worth, Texas, when he was an infant. He lived in Fort Worth until age 21, graduating summa cum laude from Texas Christian University with majors in history and political science.
Dr. Auffenberg held Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from Vanderbilt University, with a specialization in British history. He was awarded the Woodrow Wilson Dissertation Fellowship to complete his doctoral studies in England, studying at the Institute of Historical Research in London.
During his four decades at Ouachita, he was honored by the Student Senate as Outstanding Faculty Member and served as a sponsor of the Phi Alpha Theta history honor society. He was a contributor to Ouachita Voices, the university’s 125th anniversary history, and also had articles published in several publications including Great Lives from History: British and Commonwealth, the Journal of Church and State and the Red River Valley Journal of History. He was a member of Phi Alpha Theta, Pi Sigma Alpha and Kappa Delta Pi and served as a director for the Southern Conference of British Studies. He also was a member of the American Historical Association and the Arkansas Association of College History Teachers.
Continually reinvesting his learning opportunities in his students, Dr. Auffenberg frequently studied in England and other parts of Europe during sabbatical leaves. In preparation for one such trip, he said, “The opportunity to immerse myself in medieval studies would naturally broaden my intellectual horizons in an important area related to many of the classes I teach.”
According to Dr. Raouf Halaby, professor of visual arts and English, “Tom was, without a doubt, one of the gentlest, kindest and most loving human beings I have had the privilege of meeting 40 years ago this week. He was an intellectual powerhouse; he was an outstanding teacher loved and admired by his students and colleagues. He was a scholar par excellence, and he never allowed his scholarly accomplishments to go to his head.”
Describing Dr. Auffenberg as “a Renaissance man whose interests reached across all disciplines,” Dr. Halaby said, “He was a citizen of the world in the best definition of the word. He was a strong advocate for justice, fairness and equality for all.
“I can honestly say that his students and his colleagues are better people because of the example set by him,” Dr. Halaby reflected. “Even though Tom has physically departed from our midst, his legacy will live on in the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of students, colleagues and friends across the globe.”
As word of Dr. Auffenberg’s death spread across campus, students and alumni began posting words of sympathy and reflection on Twitter and other social media, including:
–“I truly hate that no other Ouachita students will be enlightened by Dr. Auffenberg’s wonderful teachings and personality.”
–“Ouachita lost someone fantastic today. Dr. Auffenberg will be greatly missed.”
–“Don’t know what else to say about Dr. Auffenberg’s passing except that I was so very honored to study history at Ouachita under his tutelage.”
–“Sad to hear of Dr. Auffenberg’s passing. Ouachita lost someone truly devoted to his field, who strove to make you love it just as much.”
–“Heartbroken over the news of Dr. Auffenberg – one of my favorite professors. Prayers lifted for my home away from home at Ouachita.”
A memorial service will be held on the Ouachita campus on Saturday, Aug. 24, at 2 p.m. in McBeth Recital Hall of Mabee Fine Arts Center. A video of the service will be posted on www.obu.edu following the service. Memorial gifts to Ouachita Baptist University may be designated for the European Study Tour or scholarships to benefit history majors.
By Trennis Henderson, OBU Vice President for Communications