November 16, 2016
Friends of Allen de Hart -- a Louisburg College professor emeritus, benefactor, mentor and environmental steward -- celebrated his life Saturday on a colorful fall day in the gardens he bequeathed to the college.
De Hart, who died last month at age 90, loved hiking, exploring nature, finding unusual species of plants. At his memorial service in De Hart Botanical Gardens, friends told stories about the eccentric, generous leader and friend whose legacy of culture and nature lives on in Franklin County and around the world.
He helped start the National Whistler’s Convention that brought whistlers from several continents to Louisburg. He began the concert series at Louisburg College that bears his name. He gave the college 91 acres on US 501 south of Louisburg to nurture and cultivate and use to educate. He was one of the most influential people in the college’s 229-year-old history.
The psychology and history professor arrived in 1957 and was a full-time faculty and staff member for 36 years. He served another 16 years part time.
Rudy Hauser of Beaufort, S.C., recalled meeting de Hart as a freshman in 1969. “I was an extremely shy 18-year-old taught and raised by my grandmother,” he said. “I didn’t have two nickels to rub together.”
De Hart took Hauser under his wing, took him to his mountain property in Virginia, taught him about the outdoors and guided his time at Louisburg. De Hart, who had earned a master’s degree from the University of Virginia, helped Hauser get into U.Va. after he finished at Louisburg College. The two remained friends for the rest of de Hart’s life. “Without his wise counsel,” said Hauser, a former vice president of Johnson & Johnson and now managing director of The Chamberlain Group, “I wouldn’t be the man I am today.”
He quoted from Michael Josephson’s “What Will Matter”: “What will matter is not what you brought but what you built, not what you learned but what you taught... Choose to live a life that matters.”
De Hart, Hauser said, made that choice.
Dr. Robert Bruck, Louisburg College professor of environmental science and curator of the De Hart Botanical Gardens, called de Hart “a renaissance man,” an author of 12 books on hiking who was totally committed to conservation. De Hart walked 68,000 to 70,000 miles of trails and took notes on every foot, Bruck said. And before he died, de Hart told Bruck: “What I want for the botanical gardens is to leave a legacy of teaching and research.”
On Saturday, standing by de Hart’s backpack and hiking boots and in front of a crowd of his hiking companions, college professors, arts patrons and former students, music professor Angela Adkins sang a song de Hart would’ve loved: “I am a poor wayfaring stranger wandering through this world of woe ... Soon I’ll be free from every trial. Put down the cross of self denial... There’s no sickness, toil or danger in that bright land to which I go.”
De Hart is buried in Woolwine Cemetery in his native Patrick County, Va., overlooking the rural countryside.