International Association of Religious Freedom: US Chapter


Remembering Hal French

With great sadness we announce that the chair of our chapter for the last four years, Harold French of Columbia, SC, passed away following heart surgery on July 10, 2014. He was, as well, a devoted husband, cherished father and friend, and beloved teacher, who had taught at the University of South Carolina in the Department of Religious Studies since 1972. “He retired formally as Department Chair in 1995. But the pull of the classroom was too strong, and he continued teaching part-time in what he called his ‘failed retirement!’ At the same time, he was involved in different service projects nationally and internationally. His lifelong passion for teaching and service opened generations of college students to cultural and religious understandings and to their own potential as bridge builders.”

“Dr. French authored four books and edited five others. He was an editor of the recently published eleven-volume Encyclopedia of Hinduism. His book, Zen and the Art of Anything, was published in three editions and was listed as one of the fifty best spiritual books of the year in 2001 by the journal Spirituality and Health.”

He was very active in interfaith work around the world. “Dr. French’s professional activities have included presentations and offices held in the American Academy of Religion, The Association for Asian Studies and interfaith associations such as The North American Interfaith Network, The International Interfaith Centre in Oxford, England, The World Congress of Faiths, Interfaith Partners of South Carolina and the World Parliament of Religions. Since 2011 he has been Chair of the U.S. Chapter of the International Association for Religious Freedom, the world’s oldest international interfaith organization.” He was a member of Shandon United Methodist Church and the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia.

His chairmanship was notable for communication and responding to interfaith conflicts in the US, as well as gentle, often humorous, spiritual guidance of members. Those who knew him as friends or as co-workers will miss him very much, but never forget his influence. (Quotes are from his obituary.)

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