Professor George Panichas and student Amanda Roth look at a paper together.Professor George E. Panichas, your dedication to the education of your students is evident in their success.

George, you received your Ph.D. from the University of Arizona in 1975, and in 1980 you joined the Lafayette faculty as an assistant professor of philosophy. You were tenured and promoted to the rank of associate professor in 1988 and promoted to the rank of professor in 2000. In 2004, you were named James Renwick Hogg Professor of Mental and Moral Philosophy.

A motivated and rigorous teacher, you have taught broadly in the curriculum, teaching courses such as Introduction to Philosophy, Basic Social Questions, Ethics, Political Philosophy, and Philosophy of Law, inspiring a love of philosophy in countless students.

George, you served as editor of Marx Analyzed: Philosophical Essays on the Thought of Karl Marx and as co-editor of Sex, Morality, and the Law. You’ve published articles on your areas of research interest—rights, political philosophy, and philosophy of law.

George, you were an active and visible member of the Lafayette faculty. You served as the head of the Philosophy Department for nearly three decades. In service to the College, you were elected to and chaired several committees, including the Enrollment Planning Committee, Student Appeals Committee, Joint Committee on Student Conduct, and Curriculum Committee. In addition, you served as a member of the Faculty Academic Policy Committee, and you were coordinator of the Ethics Project, which sponsored talks, seminars for faculty, and related activities.

Over the years, you received many awards, including the Thomas Roy and Lura Forrest Jones Lecture Award in 1989, the Dr. James P. Crawford Award in 1995, the Marquis Distinguished Teaching Award in 1998, and the Student Government Superior Teaching Award in 2001-02.

George, you had a great talent for getting others to open up to you so quickly. Joe Shieber, associate professor of philosophy, recalled the time the department was at a philosophy conference in Philadelphia interviewing candidates for an open position. After a long day of interviews, you and he happened to go out for dinner at one of those fancy restaurants south of Market East in Philly. Within minutes of finishing your meal, you had engaged diners from other tables in conversation. You found out that some of them were Lafayette alumni, with others you discovered they shared your Rhode Island roots, and with still others you found a common interest in motorcycles.

Owen McLeod, your former colleague, had this to say about you, George: “Many people know George Panichas as the pugnacious, anti-establishment figure from faculty meetings of yore. Others know him as the martini-guzzling, cigar-chomping, linguistically colorful host of certain late-night dinner parties on College Hill. Still others know George as the man whom a handful of people at Lafayette College love to hate.

“The haters don’t know the George I know: the man who worked tirelessly to expand the Philosophy Department from three full-time faculty members to six; who, during his nearly three decades as Head of philosophy, vigorously defended the interests of our department and was never the administration’s toady; who, without compensation and at great cost to himself, served as counsel to many faculty members who had been treated unjustly in one way or another; and who, more than 20 years ago, hired me into my first tenure-track job, then encouraged and fought for me every step of the way, knowing all the while I could never repay him.

“The George I know identified dozens of struggling undergraduates over the years, brought them under his tutelage, and helped them acquire the confidence to recognize their potential and the skills necessary to realize it. Through the brilliance of his classroom instruction and his contagious passion for philosophy, George earned the respect and affection of hundreds of students, including many of Lafayette’s finest. No one will ever attract more of our students to philosophy, or instill in them a truer love for the subject, than George.

“A couple of years ago, George and I were discussing the situation of a colleague who was going through a rough time. For me, this was just a story about someone I didn’t know well enough to really care about. But for George, who didn’t know this person any better than I did, their situation was a source of genuine concern. I was impressed, not for the first time, by George’s capacity for sympathy. ‘In spite of your tough guy image,’ I said, ‘you’re actually an incredibly sweet person.’

“George leaned in and whispered, ‘Don’t tell anybody.’”

Categorized in: Spotlights
Tagged in: , , , ,


  1. Hollis Ashby says:

    Bravo, George! You are truly an inspiration! You’ve helped me so much, and I have always appreciated your support. Don’t be a stranger, but really. ENJOY retirement. Or else!

    Your friend forever,


  2. Nancy McCreary Waters says:

    This missive, as laudable as it is and blazingly accurate, cannot begin to capture the force that George Panichas embodied during his career here at the College. That quicksilver mind, enviable vocabulary and cutting insight was without peer. Faculty authority, autonomy and governance mattered to George, as did equity and fairness. He had an uncanny talent to see a multifaceted problem and cut to the heart of the matter, marshaling convincing arguments, compromising when it was warranted…he often said it was amazing what you could get accomplished if you didn’t matter who got the credit. Some items absent from above but worth noting: George served as a pre-tenure member of the critical ad hoc committees that moved Lafayette away from a 2/3 quota system by department for tenure and into a merit-based system. Any and all of us who’ve been tenured in departments since the mid-’80’s can thank him for that. Curricular development? George championed innovation, both in his Ethics of Pornography Capstone, and later by breathing life into the VAST program (VAlues in Society and Technology). Through the Ethics Project, he trained dozens of faculty from all four divisions in ethical reasoning that we could use in our VAST courses. His Basic Social Questions was my gold-standard recommendation to my biology advisees seeking a challenge that would engage them at the margins of their comfort zones–I told them it was an iconic course at Lafayette, not to be missed. Grievance procedures? This faculty had none…until George, along with Emeriti Steve Lammers and Jim Lennertz, developed a process, helped persuade colleagues and administration to approve it, and assisted in a complex and contentious first expression of it, thereby establishing faculty governance as a force with which to be reckoned. Injustice rankled George more than any other issue, and he vigorously engaged verbal strikes with confidence and competence. No issue was too small…or too big, if it needed attention. He simply could not be intimidated. His zest for life, fast cars, powerful motorcycles, great food, fine wine, and a compellingly told story? Unrivaled. And over it all, he was unfailingly kind, something he hid, as Owen mentioned. It was as if he always had to help the underdog–I felt that his guidance and mentorship of me was less related to me personally and more reflective that I needed it…and it was the right thing to do. I may have learned how to be a scientist from my biology mentors, but I learned how to be a faculty member from George. I am and will be forever grateful. Enjoy your well-earned retirement, my friend!

  3. George Panichas says:

    Nancy, old friend and colleague, thank you for your kind comments. Let me say that it is nice to be appreciated, especially by someone who was not only supportive but who gave generously of her time, energy, and considerable intelligence to act on matters of principle, and who could be depended upon to do the right thing at the right time and for the right reasons.


  4. Edward Kerns says:

    All of the above is George.

    One could count on the man.

    His advice was well considered and useful.

    He made sure the faculty’s voice was heard.

    He stood for reason and fairness.

    He leveled his persuasive speaking and writing at unfair or misleading practices.

    He brought sunshine to college processes.

    When I think of George, the quote below comes to mind.

    “You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.
    Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.
    Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.
    The universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it.
    Death smiles at us all, but all a man can do is smile back.
    The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.
    It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinions than our own.
    Love nothing but that which comes to you woven in the pattern of your destiny. For what could more aptly fit your needs?
    The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts.
    Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.”
    Marcus Aurelius

    Ed Kerns

  5. Wendy Wilson-Fall says:

    George Panichas is one of the most fabulous people I’ve ever met. No need to be redundant and say what my colleagues have said above, but I add my voice enthusiastically. He was one of the first people to actively welcome me into the Lafayette community nine years ago, and he set an example that was valuable and encouraging. He is a kind, thoughtful person who speaks his mind without malice. I am glad to have had the opportunity to meet George and Michiko!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use basic HTML tags and attributes.