Dr. Robert John Manning, 72, of Davidson NC, died Saturday, March 21, 2015 at Novant Hospital in Huntersville. Bob was born in Pittsburgh, PA on August 2, 1942, the only child of John Cohoe Manning and Ruth Hamilton Manning, who preceded him in death. He was a member of the first graduating class of Thomas Jefferson High School before attending Gettysburg College, then the University of Virginia, where his studies culminated in a Ph.D. in Physics.
Having been offered two teaching jobs at colleges half a country apart from each other, Bob made the lucky flip of a coin to choose Davidson College. He taught in the Physics Department at Davidson for 37 years, in subjects that ranged from Astronomy to Classical Mechanics. His real passion, however, was teaching interdisciplinary Humanities where he combined his love of the history of science, literature, and the arts. Bob chaired the Davidson College Center for Interdisciplinary Studies for eight years.
His influence in the classroom was recognized through various honors including the Thomas Jefferson Award (1981), which he felt most humbled to have received. Bob retired in 2005 as Charles A. Dana Professor Emeritus of Physics and Humanities. He continued to foster connections with the college, and especially between the college and Davidson College Presbyterian Church, of which he was an active and faithful member and elder, until his death. He lived a life devoted in equal parts to faith and science.
Bob was also an accomplished actor, especially in many productions for the Davidson Community Players. His performance as Sir Thomas More in “A Man for All Seasons” is still being talked about many years later. Bob’s humor was on display at Christmas celebrations on the Davidson College campus, where for many years he delighted hundreds of children as the Grinch who stole Christmas.
Bob’s primary and most enduring love was family. He and his first beloved wife, Carolina Hudnall Manning, raised three children in Davidson and enjoyed almost 35 years of marriage together before Carolina’s death in 2003. Bob was blessed to then marry his second, equally beloved wife, Susan Byers Manning, to whom he was happily married for almost 11 years. As a husband, father, and grandfather, Bob traveled, coached, lectured, laughed, prayed, groused (occasionally), read, wrote, comforted, and inspired.
In addition to his family, Bob loved the Atlanta Braves, cookies, True Grit, staying inside on family trips to Sunset Beach, classical music, witty conversations, working in his wood shop, Arlo Guthrie’s “City of New Orleans,” the NPR Sunday morning puzzle, Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia, and collecting vintage baseball cards. He did not love asparagus, but he loved the people who do. Bob saw beauty in old maps, meaning in a starry night, and the face of God in his grandchildren.
Bob is survived by his wife Susan, his children Laura (Sean) Riley, Mary Alice Mitchell, and John (Victoria) Manning; his stepdaughters Ashley (Bobby) Gower, Tiffany (Michael) Fremder, and Brittany (Adam) Kicklighter; and 12 grandchildren ranging in age from 14 years to six weeks: Grady, Taylor, John, Logan, Austin, Jack, Carolina, Abby, Kate, Brooks, Emily, and Ben.
A Service of Witness to the Resurrection honoring Bob’s life will be held Sunday, March 29 at 2:00 pm at Davidson College Presbyterian Church, Davidson NC, with a reception to follow at the Congregation House. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Davidson College Presbyterian Church for an endowment fund to support campus ministry.
James Funeral Home of Huntersville, NC is serving the Manning family. Please see more at jamesfuneralhomelkn.com.
One Reply to “Physics and Humanities Professor Robert “Bob” Manning”
I am so sad to hear about Prof. Manning. In addition to him having taught one of my favorite classes at Davidson (Observational Astronomy), he was partly responsible for me deciding to go there. When I was on campus as a prospective, I got to attend one of his Humes lectures and still remember thinking that if this was college, you could sign me up immediately. He was a gifted teacher and a kind person. My condolences to his family.
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