Faculty

In Memoriam: Hugo A. Bedau


Hugo Adam Bedau, the Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy, Emeritus, died on Monday, August 13. He was 85. The cause of death was complications from Parkinson's disease.

Hugo Bedau joined the Tufts faculty in 1966 and retired in 1999. Prior to his appointment at Tufts, he taught at Dartmouth College, Princeton University, and Reed College. He is best known for his long-standing interest in issues having to do with punishment in general and the death penalty in particular, on which he was an international expert. He testified against the death penalty before the U.S. Congress and many state legislatures, and he wrote for several newspapers as well as academic presses. Professor Bedau was editor of the standard work on capital punishment, The Death Penalty in America (1st edition, 1964; 4th edition, 1997), and several other books, and he published three volumes of his own essays: The Courts, the Constitution, and Capital Punishment (1977), Death is Different (1987), and Killing as Punishment (2004).

Professor Bedau was elected the Romanell–Phi Beta Kappa Professor of Philosophy in 1994; his Romanell lectures, delivered at Tufts, were published by Oxford University Press (1997), under the title Making Mortal Choices. A long-time (and founding) member of the National Coalition Against the Death Penalty, he served many years on its board and two terms as its chairman. His distinguished career as a scholar and public advocate earned him numerous awards. He was an active member of American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) beginning in the 1950s, and in 2002 he received the Roger Baldwin Award from the ACLU of Massachusetts.

Hugo will be remembered as a courageous advocate for justice and a beloved teacher and colleague. He was a leader in building and shaping the Tufts Philosophy Department. His signature approach as department chair and colleague was highly democratic and transparent. Student writing and critical thinking were of central concern to him in his teaching, leading him to publish Thinking and Writing About Philosophy (1st edition, 1996; 2nd edition, 2002), and two books co-authored with Tufts colleague Sylvan Barnet, most notably Current Issues and Enduring Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking and Argument (9th edition, 2010). Hugo's sharp thinking and lively sense of humor will be dearly missed.

Hugo lived in Concord, MA, where he loved to swim the length of Walden Pond and back. His enthusiasm for hiking and the outdoors, together with his love of philosophy and teaching, brought him to the Tufts Summer Program in Talloires six times. He also loved music of all kinds.

Hugo is survived by his wife of 22 years, Constance Putnam, a medical historian who earned her PhD at Tufts. He is also survived by four children from a previous marriage: Mark, Paul, and Guy Bedau and Lauren Bedau Evans; two sisters, Carol Bell and Renee Larson; and five grandchildren.

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