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Belmont remembers Dr. Mike Awalt

Professor emeritus and beloved Bruin family member Mike Awalt passed away March 19 at 73 years old after losing his battle with cancer.

Awalt joined the Belmont faculty in 1970 and worked in the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Humanities. Additionally, he helped create the department of philosophy in 1988.

Awalt was chair of the philosophy department until 1994, and even after stepping down from the position, continued to passionately teach philosophy, Director of Asian studies Dr. Ronnie Littlejohn said.

Littlejohn helped Awalt create the department and became chair when Awalt stepped down.

Awalt viewed philosophy as more than just regurgitating old information from Plato and Socrates; he viewed it as a facet of life, Littlejohn said.

“He felt strongly that philosophy was a very active and contemporary part of life,” Littlejohn said. “He also liked seeing philosophy in popular culture, especially in film. He really had a kind of knack for seeing the philosophical issues in all kinds of movies.”

Awalt was a strong advocate of a problem-based learning style of teaching. He would teach philosophy by posing students with a practical problem to solve, which made him extremely popular with his students and helped attract more students to the philosophy department, said Littlejohn.

“He was a mentor to students, very close to them,” Littlejohn said. “Even if they didn’t major or minor with us, they might still take three or four courses because they liked him or he turned them on to philosophy in some sort of way.”

Awalt was also the founding director of Belmont’s Teaching Center, and held that position from 1994 to 1997. The Teaching Center is housed in the Lila D. Bunch Library and provides faculty with various activities to improve their skills as instructors.

He also received numerous awards during his tenure, including the Chaney Distinguished Professor Award in 1985, the Ernest Boyer International Award for Excellence in Teaching in Learning and Technology in 1997 and the Case Tennessee Professor of the Year in 2000, according to Belmont’s website.

But besides the awards and academic contributions to campus, Awalt was an easygoing friend with a great sense of humor and a passion for Belmont its students.

Awalt retired from Belmont University in 2011.

“He really had a strong, long commitment to Belmont, to Belmont students. Belmont was a very, very significant part of his life,” Littlejohn said.

Belmont will hold a memorial service for Awalt on April 12 at 1:30 p.m in McAfee Concert Hall.

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