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R. Lansing Hicks, professor emeritus of Old Testament, dies at 86

R. Lansing Hicks, professor emeritus of Old Testament and former associate dean of academic affairs at Yale Divinity School, died Monday, Jan. 14, 2008, in Hamden, CT after a long illness.  Hicks joined the faculty of YDS in 1971, following the affiliation between YDS and Berkeley Divinity School, and retired in 1990. He had been appointed to the BDS faculty in 1954 and then named full professor in 1958.

R. Lansing HicksAn Episcopal priest with roots in the South, Hicks will be remembered as a teacher who cared deeply about his students both in and out of class; prepared meticulously for classroom sessions; and approached the subject matter with a thoroughness that added a strong sense of gravitas to his work.  His primary focus was on teaching rather than on writing books – over the course of his career his publications were mostly in the realm of encyclopedia articles, journal articles and book reviews – and he was known widely as a person of particularly high personal and academic integrity.

That sense of integrity was apparent early in Hicks’s career when, as a young scholar in 1952, he was among a group of faculty at the University of the South in Sewanee, TN, who resigned their positions to protest the school’s reluctance to desegregate.  Hicks and the others had written a widely publicized letter calling the school’s position “untenable in the light of Christian ethics and of the teaching of the Anglican Communion.”

“He always reflected the graciousness of his southern roots, but at the same time his fine ethical and moral sense made him a shining example of religious opposition to segregation in the South of the 1950's,” said Robert Wilson, associate dean of academic affairs at YDS and a longtime Old Testament colleague of Hicks.  “His influence at Berkeley and at Yale was both wide and deep, and he is fondly remembered by all those with whom he came in contact.”

Joseph Britton, dean of Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, said, “Lansing was one of the real heroes of Berkeley Divinity School. His courageous decision to walk out of the University of the South over the issue of racial segregation always endeared him to our students, who looked to him not only as a learned teacher of the scriptures but as a real role model as well.”

Wilson and others vividly remember Hicks’s unflagging commitment to people and to the church.

“Lansing Hicks was unfailingly concerned about his students and about the church he was preparing them to serve,” said Wilson.  “As a teacher he was thorough and comprehensive; as an administrator he was open and fair; as a scholar he was both meticulous and creative; and as a colleague he was congenial and kind.” 

Victoria Hoffer, lecturer in Old Testament at YDS, recalled, “Lansing Hicks was my advisor, teacher, and friend.  From my first days at Yale Divinity School, through my Ph.D. and beyond, he welcomed my questions and interests. He gave me encouragement every step of the way.

“He supported me in times of personal difficulty.  How I admired this modest, elegant, completely genuine man, who gave of himself so generously and with such kindness.  Many precious memories flood me when I think of Lansing.  The most special, perhaps, was his delight in describing how he met, and then courted and married his beloved Helen.  A true scholar and a dear friend is gone.  I will miss him very much.”

As a biblical scholar, Hicks’s interests lay primarily in the area of the Christian use of the Old Testament in its relation to the New Testament.  In 1968, he delivered The Winslow Lectures at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, published in monograph form as Forms of Christ in the Old Testament:  The Problem of The Christological Unity of the Bible. He also published articles in the Anglican Theological Review, the Journal of Bible and Religion, The Oxford Annotated Bible, and The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible.

At times, Hicks was the only member of the YDS faculty with enough archeological field experience to teach an Old Testament archeology course.   During summer 1976 he was visiting archeologist for excavations at Tell Dan, and in summer 1966 he was field supervisor in the excavations at et-Tell.  In May 1962 he worked on excavations at Tell er-Rumeith.

Hicks earned a B.A. in 1942 from Wake Forest University, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, then a B.D. from the School of Theology at the University of the South in 1945.  He did post-graduate study in 1948-49 at the University of Basel and earned his Th.D. in 1954 from Union Theological Seminary in New York. He was awarded an honorary D.D. in 1990 by Virginia Theological Seminary.

Born Sept. 20, 1921 in Raleigh, NC, Hicks was ordained in the Episcopal Church in 1945.  He served Grace Episcopal Church in Weldon, NC and the Church of the Epiphany in New York City before joining the University of the South in 1949.

He is survived by his wife, Helen, of Hamden, CT; two sons, Peter Hicks of Hamden, and Robert L. Hicks Jr. of Casa Grande, AZ; a daughter, Katherine M. Hicks of Northampton, MA; five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

A service of celebration and thanksgiving will take place in Marquand Chapel at the Divinity School at 5:30 p.m. on March 27. Friends are invited to submit written contributions to be included in a book of remembrances for Helen Hicks. Contributions may be sent via email to grace.pauls@yale.edu by Monday, March 17, with "Hicks Memorial Service" in the subject line.

 

Revised, February 19, 2008

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