Dr. Eugene P. Hibbett lost his two-month battle with West Nile virus Oct. 6. The long-time chemistry teacher at Freed-Hardeman had turned 80 years old in July. He is survived by his wife of 54 years, Jackie; a daughter Lynne Moore and her husband Kevin; a son Lee and his wife Sarah, and four granddaughters. In addition to his immediate and extended families, a host of friends and former students mourn his passing.
Daughter-in-law Sarah posted the following statement on FaceBook, “Papa Gene was brilliant and well-educated, yet committed to being a steady student of the Bible and he always had a book in his hands. He was as down-to-earth as anyone could be. Someone described him beautifully as a gentle genius. He was absolutely hilarious and entertaining, yet could talk to you about the deepest and most serious matters. He was a spiritual leader yet understood his need for mercy and grace from our Father. He did not need fancy anything to be happy. His happiness came from the most important matters in life, which is why on his last birthday, he could not think of anything for which to wish.”
Dr. Milton Tucker, former student and colleague of Dr. Hibbett delivered the eulogy at Dr. Hibbet’s funeral. Tucker began his Freed-Hardeman career as a student in 1958, the same year Hibbett and Howard Trull joined the faculty. It was the beginning of a life-long friendship. “I had no idea those two men would change my life forever,” Tucker said. “Because of my experience in Hibbett’s classes, I decided upon teaching as a career. Because of my experience in Trull’s classes, I decided to teach biology. At that time, I never dreamed of coming back to Freed-Hardeman and being able to work with them for over 30 years. If ever there was a Camelot—it was then.”
Hibbett has been described as the prototypical absent-minded professor. Tucker said you could always tell when Jackie was out of town, because of the lapses in Hibbett’s grooming. He needed to be reminded when a birthday or anniversary was approaching, and then reminded again.
Hibbett’s misadventures and plain goof-ups are legendary. There is even a name for them—“pulling a Hibbett.” “I loved the man for so many reasons,” Tucker said, “and one of them was his complete honesty. Ever so often, he would appear at my office door with a big smile on his face and I usually knew what was coming. He would say, ‘Tucker, I pulled a Hibbett.’ Then he would tell me what he had done.”
While most folks would have kept these stories to themselves and hoped no one would find out what they had done, Hibbett delighted in telling the stories. He knew his friends would get a laugh out of it and so he told, even as he laughed at himself, Tucker said.
Funeral services were conducted Oct. 8 at the Estes Church of Christ where Hibbett had served as an elder. The family has requested memorials be sent to the Hibbett-Trull Scholarship Fund at the university.
Click here to read Sara Edwards Hibbett’s Facebook Post.
Click here to read Milton Tucker’s Eulogy for Dr. Hibbett.
Bro. Hibbett was truly a beloved professor and dear friend. I loved his classes, working as his secretary, and returning to visit with he and Jackie thru the years. He touched my life and will never be forgotten. I love you, Hibbett! You will be missed!
I was blessed to have had Dr. Hibbett as my chemistry professor 1965-66. I enjoyed his company for the several months I chauffeured him on Sundays to his preaching engagements in Iuka, MS. My admirmation and appreciation for his influence on generations of students at Freed-Hardeman has not diminished nor been forgotten.