Houston “Mike” Awalt, III, age 73, died on Thursday, March 19, 2015, after a devastating battle with cancer.
Mike was born on November 25, 1941, in San Antonio, Texas. He graduated from Highlands High School in 1959, received his BA from Baylor University in 1963, a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1966, and a Ph.D. from Baylor University in 1984. In 1970, Mike moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where he began teaching Theology and Philosophy at Belmont College (now University). He was Chairman of the Department of Philosophy from 1988 to 1997. Mike retired from Belmont University in 2011, after which he was named Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Philosophy. During his retirement, he volunteered at the Edgehill Neighborhood Partnership and was the coordinator of the Free Store. He was a member and Trustee of Edgehill United Methodist Church.
Mike’s teaching career began in Texas while he was in Graduate School at Baylor University. When referring to his career, he was quoted as saying, “I’m one of those lucky people. I can’t think of what I’d rather do than what I’m doing.” Internationally recognized for his innovative approach to education, Mike was a challenging yet supportive teacher who dared his students to think bold thoughts and to express themselves critically and creatively. He received numerous awards over the years, including Belmont University’s Chaney Distinguished Professor Award. He was named Tennessee Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education. In 1997, Mike was selected from nominees representing twenty colleges and universities throughout the world for the prestigious Ernest L. Boyer International Award for Excellence in Teaching, Learning, and Technology. He was responsible for writing a grant that secured funding for the establishment of the Teaching Center at Belmont and was named as its first Director. In 2001, he edited a collection of readings entitled, “Philosophy and Film.” The Chapter of the National Honorary in Philosophy at Belmont University is named the H. Mike Awalt Chapter of Phi Sigma Tau.
A tall, gentle Texan who possessed a keen wit and unlimited affection for his friends and family, Mike was admired and respected by all who knew him. His interests ran the gamut from Kierkegaard to Gene Autry, Luciano Pavarotti to Bob Wills, and Film Noir to B-Western movies. His passion for Belmont University basketball was rivaled only by his devotion to his grandchildren, who lovingly referred to him as “Paw Paw.” He was an avid golfer, an aspiring bowler, a film aficionado, and an accomplished chef of Mexican cuisine and Texas barbecue. He fulfilled his dream of living in the mountains by building a cabin in the Conejos Canyon of south central Colorado where he and his wife, Connie, spent many summers.
Mike was preceded in death by his mother, Georgia Nell Spivey, and his daughter, Stacy Annette Awalt.
Mike is survived by his wife of twenty three years, Connie Gowen; his father, W. Allen Spivey; children, Brad Awalt (Jami), Susanna Allen (Russ), Steve Speshock (Tiffany); grandchildren Lily and Ethan Awalt, Ella Cate and Cooper Allen, Abram and Amelia Speshock; sister, Nancy Spencer (Leroy), and several nieces and a nephew.
A memorial service will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 12, at Belmont University’s McAfee Concert Hall, 2100 Belmont Blvd., Nashville, TN 37212.
Memorial contributions can be made to: The Free Store at the Edgehill Neighborhood Partnership, www.edgehillpartnership.org/freestore, PO Box 121016, Nashville, Tennessee 37212, or Alive Hospice, www.alivehospice.org, 1718 Patterson Street, Nashville, Tennessee 37203.
NASHVILLE FUNERAL AND CREMATION 615-256-1605