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Howard Harrod, longtime Vanderbilt divinity and religious studies professor, dies

Feb. 4, 2003, 3:28 PM

February 4, 2003

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Howard Harrod, who grew up in Oklahoma among the Native Americans of the Northern Plains and spent his career studying and writing about their practices and beliefs, died Feb. 3 at his home after an extended illness. He was 70 years old.

Harrod, the Oberlin Alumni Professor of Social Ethics and Sociology of Religion, Emeritus, and professor of religious studies, emeritus, retired in 2000 after having taught at Vanderbilt for more than 30 years. His teaching and research focused on the sociology of religion and Native American religions of the Northern Plains. Harrod believed there was much to learn from the value traditions of the plains tribes, particularly in regard to resource management and its impact on the environment.

“Howard was the rarest of academics, someone who combined hard-mindedness about ideas and their implications with gentleness of spirit toward people,” said Divinity School Dean James Hudnut-Beumler. “Whether it was a student or a faculty colleague, you never felt foolish with Howard, yet you always learned something.”

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15, at Benton Chapel. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Howard L. Harrod Lecture Fund at the Divinity School, Gilda’s Club of Nashville or Alive Hospice, also in Nashville.

Harrod authored five books and numerous articles, most of them dealing with Native American religions and traditions of the northern plains. His most recent publication was 2000’s The Animals Came Dancing: Native American Sacred Ecology and Animal Kinship.

His service to Vanderbilt included membership on the Research Council, the University Promotion and Tenure Review Committee and the Faculty Senate, including a year as secretary. He also served as director of the graduate Department of Religion. A former member of the Hospital Ethics Committee, he helped teach medical ethics in the School of Medicine and twice led undergraduates on Alternative Spring Breaks to work on Native American reservations.

Born in Oklahoma in 1932, Harrod was adopted and raised by the late Nettie Smith Harrod Wilkerson and Howard B. Harrod. He earned degrees from Oklahoma and Duke universities before earning a master’s degree and Ph.D. from Yale University in 1965. After serving on the faculties of Howard and Drake universities, Harrod taught at the Vanderbilt Divinity School and the Department of Religious Studies from 1968 until he retired in 2002.

He is survived by his wife of 31 years, Annemarie Nussbaumer Harrod; two daughters, Lee Ann Merrick of Nashville and Amy Ceil Leonard of Denver; four grandchildren, Miranda, Colin, John and Grace; and cousin Cille Wasson.

Media contact: Elizabeth Latt, 615-322-NEWS,

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