Memorial service for Sam Hirt, former longtime director of campus recreation, is Nov. 4

Sam Hirt (Daniel Dubois/Vanderbilt)
Sam Hirt (Daniel Dubois/Vanderbilt University)

A memorial service celebrating the life of Sam Hirt, who served as director of campus recreation at Vanderbilt University for 50 years before his retirement in 2013, will be on Saturday, Nov. 4, at Nashville First Baptist Church.

Hirt died on Aug. 10 in Nashville. He was 82.

Visitation is scheduled from 9 to 11 a.m. at the church, with the service beginning at 11 a.m. Nashville First Baptist Church is at 108 Seventh Ave. S.

Hirt had just earned his master’s in physical education from George Peabody College when he applied for the position of Vanderbilt’s first full-time director of intramurals. Hired by then-Vice Chancellor Rob Roy Purdy, his first day on the job was Sept. 2, 1963.

When he started, campus recreation’s domain was little more than part-time use of Memorial Gym and a few athletics fields. Under Hirt’s leadership, it grew to include a 136,000-square-foot standalone Recreation Center, opened in 1990, and a 170,000-square-foot addition that was still under construction at the time of his retirement on Sept. 2, 2013. (The center was named the David Williams II Recreation and Wellness Center in 2019 in honor of the late Vanderbilt athletic director.)

During his tenure, Hirt was involved in the planning of every campus recreation expansion south of Memorial Gym as well as a robust and ever-expanding slate of intramural and club sport programming. A driving mission of campus recreation was always to give students a fun, productive alternative to their academic lives, he said. Through it all, Hirt strived to keep students’ best interests at heart.

“Like any job, there’s a lot of planning that goes into what your dreams and goals are,” he said in 2013. “I have always dreamed of getting more for the students. The primary reason we’re here is the students.”

Hirt is survived by his wife of 62 years, Melanie; his three children, Betsy, Shawn and Brett and their spouses; five grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

Those who wish to share memories of Hirt and condolences with his family may send them to

Read more about Hirt’s longtime service and storied career at Vanderbilt in this MyVU profile from 2013.