In Memoriam

John T. Kearns 1936 — 2023

The University at Buffalo Department of Philosophy regrets to announce the passing, on December 28, 2023, of John T. Kearns, Professor Emeritus.

John Kearns, an emeritus University at Buffalo philosophy professor of 52 years, former department chair for 12 years, died at ECMC. He was 87. A native of Champaign, Ill., he was a proud alumnus of the University of Notre Dame, where he earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy in 1958. In ‘62, after finishing a PhD in philosophy at Yale University, as a member of ROTC, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant, and stationed at Verdun, Fourth Log Command, in France, where he met, and in ‘63, married his wife of 60 years, Jane Grothaus Kearns. Together they had four children, Michelle, Megan, Kevin and Jesse. They moved to Buffalo in ‘64 when UB hired him. They restored a Victorian in the Elmwood Village, where they raised their children, various cats, dogs and guinea pigs, and where they hosted 13 foreign students. He fell just before the planned 2023 family Christmas trip to San Diego. He died a week later. A memorial service will be held Friday, June 21, 2024, at Blessed Sacrament Church, where he was an active parishioner for more than four decades.

At UB Philosophy

John Kearns joined the UB philosophy department in 1964 after receiving his PhD in philosophy from Yale University (1962) and serving two years in the U.S. Army (1962-64). John served as chair of the UB philosophy department for a total of twelve years, from September 1994 to August 2003 and then again from September 2007 to August 2010. John retired from Professor in the UB philosophy department to Emeritus Professor in January 2018.

John's research spanned topics in logic and speech act theory and resulted in an output of almost 60 research articles and two books, Using Language: The Structure of Speech Acts (1984) and Reconceiving Experience, A Solution to a Problem Inherited from Aristotle (1996). His primary research interests focused on illocutionary logic and modal logic. John regularly presented papers at the Logica conferences in the Czech Republic and at numerous other international conferences. In addition to his research publications, John is the author of two textbooks on deductive logic. He also edited the series in Logic and Language for SUNY press which produced books between 1985 and 2000.

Besides his 12 years as Chair of the philosophy department, John at various times served the department as Assistant Chair, Director of Graduate Studies, and Director of Undergraduate Studies. John was a regular participant in both the Buffalo Logic Colloquium and the Cognitive Science Speakers series. In addition to his research, service, and teaching contributions to the UB community, John is remembered for his warm hospitality. Throughout his time in Buffalo, he and his wife Jane regularly invited faculty and graduate students to their home for dinners and open houses. 

John T. Kearns, PhD (October 28, 1936 — December 28, 2023).

John T. Kearns, PhD  (October 28, 1936 — December 28, 2023)