In Memoriam: Regent University Grieves the Passing of Dr. Michael Palmer
VIRGINIA BEACH, VA (Dec. 8, 2022) – Regent University mourns the loss of Michael Palmer, Ph. D., who served students and staff faithfully as a multi-subject faculty member and former dean in the School of Divinity.
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15, ESV).
Dr. Palmer was a native of Missoula, Montana. He earned a B.A. and M.A. in Philosophy in 1976 and 1977, respectively, from the University of Montana. He studied as a Visiting Research Fellow at Cornell University in 1980 and graduated from Marquette University in 1984, earning a Ph.D. in Philosophy.
Dr. Palmer served at Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri, as Professor of Philosophy from 1985 to 2006; Theology Department Chair from 1991 to 2001; and Director of Project Envision from 2002 to 2006. In 2006 he became Dean of the Regent University School of Divinity, serving until 2013. He continued his academic career as a Professor, General Education, Regent University College of Arts and Sciences, teaching courses in Philosophy, Ethics, and related subjects until the time of his passing.
Dr. Palmer’s Research interests were Moral Philosophy, Ancient Philosophy, Worldview Formation and Analysis, and the ways classical philosophy is related to Christian thought. Among his published works are: Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Religion and Social Justice, Edited by Michael D. Palmer and Stanley M. Burgess. Wiley-Blackwell, 2012; and Elements of a Christian Worldview. Editor and contributing author. Logion Press, 1998, in addition to various other books and articles.
Dr. Palmer was affiliated with the Gabriel Marcel Society and received the following awards: E. M. and Estella Clark Award for Excellence in Teaching, Scholarship, and Service; Arthur J. Schmitt Fellowship; and the Smith Family Traveling Scholarship. In expressing his teaching philosophy, Dr. Palmer maintained that:
As a Christian educator, my chief task is to help my students flourish as human beings made in the image of God. Both as a matter of spiritual calling and professional responsibility, I seek to help my students fulfill their potential—what I have elsewhere called ‘moral and spiritual maturation’—nurturing in them not simply the skills and knowledge base they will need as they pursue their careers, but also certain intellectual, moral, and spiritual habits that come from exploring and embracing a spectrum of practices which nurture faith, hope, and charity.
Michael was married to Connie Marie. Their marriage was blessed by the birth of two sons. The Palmers participated very actively in their local church, where Michael taught a Sunday morning adult education class, and Connie shared her gifting and professional training as an accomplished pianist. In times of rest and relaxation, Michael enjoyed reading novels, playing chess, visiting historical sites, and traveling to foreign countries.
Dr. Palmer consistently demonstrated dedication to his faith, family, and vocational responsibilities, evidencing a passion for his academic discipline, an attitude of humility, a willingness to listen, respect for colleagues’ knowledge and expertise, and a gentle sense of humor. He modeled a deep love and compassion for others, placing people and their needs ahead of things. He was genuinely concerned about family, personal welfare, and living a balanced life. Dr. Palmer was ambitious when it came to working goals and accomplishments but led with a gentle personal touch. The way he interacted with people encouraged others to respond to his leadership. Working with Dr. Palmer was described by one colleague as highly enjoyable. His sense of humor, overcoming spirit, and kind manner will be fondly remembered.
The many students he taught, and faculty members he mentored, will remember Dr. Michael Palmer with respect and affection as both scholar and friend. We will only understand the impact on so many lives that Dr. Palmer has had when we meet again for eternity. As Dr. Bill Hathaway, Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs at Regent University observed, “[It is] hard to sum up someone with such a servant’s heart in a brief space.” That servant’s heart touched so many people. Enoch Charles, one of Dr. Palmer’s doctoral students, speaks for many when he says “[Dr. Palmer was] a consummate educator who had an incredible impact on my life.”
Dr. Palmer’s impact was not limited to students, but profoundly impacted many faculty he mentored in his years as Dean in the School of Divinity. Mara Crabtree observes: “Dr. Palmer was very clear about his priorities and goals in life. He emphasized the truth contained in the Westminster Shorter Catechism: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” His understanding of vocation was to faithfully live this truth in his teaching, research, writing, mentoring, and in all his life.” Likewise, Diane Chandler remembers the things that made Dr. Palmer’s impact so great in the lives of faculty who served with him: If lives could be measured as tall trees, Michael’s was one of the tallest. Intellectually sharp, humble, deferential, honoring, empowering, an engaged listener without being controlling, genuine, quick-witted, and without artifice—Michael was a scholar, writer, and teacher, par excellence. But more importantly, he was a cherished friend.” As Kevin Spawn observes: “Each conversation with Michael was a blessing. He also spoke volumes through his acts of loving service to his family and friends.”
Dr. Joseph Umidi, Executive Vice President of Student Services at Regent gets right to the heart of why Dr. Palmer could have such an impact on the lives of students and faculty: “As a lifelong learner and a leader with a passion for listening to the hearts of students and faculty, Dr. Palmer extended the mission and heart of Regent School of Divinity across multiple denominational, ethnic, and cultural boundaries with wisdom and love.” Regent University thanks God for the life and legacy of Dr. Michael Palmer.
A celebration of life memorial service for Dr. Palmer will take place on Saturday, December 17, 2022, at Evangel Temple, 2020 E. Battlefield St., Springfield, MO 65804, at 2:30 pm. A visitation time is scheduled from 1:30 pm.
About Regent University
Founded in 1977, Regent University is America’s premier Christian university with more than 13,000 students studying on its 70-acre campus in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and online around the world. The university offers associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in more than 150 areas of study including, business, communication and the arts, counseling, cybersecurity, divinity, education, government, law, leadership, nursing, healthcare, and psychology. Regent University is ranked the #1 Best Accredited Online College in the United States (Study.com, 2020), the #1 Safest College Campus in Virginia (YourLocalSecurity, 2021), and the #1 Best Online Bachelor’s Program in Virginia for ten years in a row (U.S. News & World Report, 2022).