Brice Harris, professor of history emeritus

For generations of students, Harris and Lauter taught history and philosophy, respectively, with innovation and enthusiasm

Professor of History Emeritus Brice Harris Jr., who taught at Occidental from 1965 to 2003, died July 8, 2023, at his home in Pasadena, one day after his 91st birthday.   

Born in Ithaca, N.Y., where his father was a professor of English literature at Cornell University, Brice grew up surrounded by countless classic books. He graduated with honors from Swarthmore College in 1953 and received his M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1957 and 1962, respectively.

Between undergraduate and graduate study, Brice served three years in the U.S. Army as an intelligence officer in Ethiopia. His time there not only fed a lifelong curiosity about the wider world, its history and current events, but also led him to change his academic area of focus from American history to African studies.

Brice joined the faculty at San Diego State University in 1961 as an assistant professor teaching classes in American civilization, African studies and Middle Eastern studies. He arrived at Occidental in 1965 as an associate professor of history under a special grant from the Ford Foundation in non-Western studies and was accorded tenure in 1967.

During his 38 years at Occidental, Brice served many roles in the College community. These included chair of the History, International and Diplomacy and World Affairs departments; chair of the Faculty Club; and chair of the Undergraduate Fellowship Committee. He spent 35 years as the faculty adviser to Project Amigos, the much-loved program that sent alumni and students to Tijuana each year to assist in the construction of one-room homes for impoverished families.

Brice used sabbatical opportunities to teach at Cuttington College in Liberia (1968-69), the American University in Cairo (1973-75), the University College of Bahrain (1980-81) and even a Semester at Sea program (1998). This represented a concept of immersive learning that he wove into his entire career but first practiced in the summer of 1964, when he led a Crossroads Africa program that brought African and American students together in community development projects in Uganda. He led Occidental study abroad trips to Egypt in 1986 and 1993. He was also involved in the Model United Nations program, serving on the executive committee for the Western Collegiate chapter and chair of the California chapter.  

Upon his retirement, Brice continued to travel and find new classrooms—sometimes at Pasadena City College as an adjunct professor, sometimes tutoring third-graders at Jefferson Elementary School in Pasadena or discussing world events with his fellow residents at Villa Gardens.

Brice is survived by his wife of 65 years, Carolyn; his three children, Linda, Cay, and Will '87; and six grandsons: Mario, Tanner, Cooper, Chris, Raymond and Elias.

Hal Lauter, professor of philosophy emeritus

Herman A. “Hal” Lauter, professor of philosophy emeritus, died Sept. 27, 2023, in Pasadena. He was 93. Hal taught at Occidental from 1963 until his retirement in 1991. The Lauter Prize in Philosophy, presented annually to the best senior comprehensive paper in philosophy, was established in 2010 in his honor. 

A native of Indianapolis, he received a B.S. in physics from Purdue, a master’s in philosophy from the University of Washington, and a Ph.D. in philosophy from UCLA. Prior to joining the Occidental faculty in 1963, Hal taught full-time at UC Santa Barbara during the 1962-63 academic year and was the recipient of a Danforth Foundation Teacher Grant for the 1966-67 academic year.

Hal published articles in aesthetics and the philosophy of science and was a member of the American Association of University Professors, the American Philosophical Association, and the American Society for Aesthetics. His travels took him to Canada, Mexico, Central America, Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific.

Many Oxy students’ first exposure to Professor Lauter was through the Collegium—an interdisciplinary, team-taught course for first-year students. Together with Physics Professor Alvin Hudson, he also team-taught a popular course, Space & Time, that studied the changing concepts of the titular subject as viewed by philosophers and scientists. 

“As a Collegium student, the first Occidental lecture I heard may well have been delivered by Hal, no doubt related to the ancient Greeks,” recalls Monique Beeler ’89. “His appearance was that of the quintessential professor of his era—full beard, slight build, blazer with button-up shirt.”

“Dr. Lauter had this way of briefly giggling when he knew the philosophical passage he was about to share was a difficult one to comprehend,” adds Mary Jane Parks ’86. “The more difficult the philosophy, the more he would smile impishly and watch your face frown up and then get it.” 

Hal was preceded in death by his wife of 61 years, Elva, in 2019. Survivors include his brother and sister-in-law, John and Phyllis Lauter; and nephews Ron, Doug, and Keith Lauter. (A fourth nephew, Ken, died in 2022.)