D. Gregory Sapp, PhD, the Hal S. Marchman Chair of Civic and Social Responsibility and professor of Religious Studies at Stetson, passed away suddenly over the weekend, the university announced Sunday. His cause of death is unknown.
In an email to students, faculty and staff, President Christopher Roellke, PhD, described Sapp as a well-known and loved member of the community, and “a deeply engaged member of the faculty with tremendous energy and enthusiasm for Stetson.”
“There are so many ways Greg has touched this community,” Roellke wrote in the email Sunday afternoon. “He is known for his long-time leadership in Religious Studies, his involvement as faculty advisor to the Bonner Program, his support for community engagement and civic involvement, and his membership on our alumni board.
“For more than a decade he has been a champion and supporter of the Freedom Riders summer program,” traveling with students from DeLand and the College of Law as they retraced the footsteps of civil rights activists through the Deep South, protesting segregated bus terminals in the 1960s.
Year after year, students described the trip as “life-changing,” Sapp said in an interview with Stetson University Magazine this summer, as protests against racial injustice and police brutality spread across the country.
“The impact isn’t only historical; there’s a strong contemporary component to it, as well,” Sapp said about the program. “Students learn that the motivations that fueled the segregationist practices through the 1960s remain and must be fought continually.”
Born and raised in a small town outside Gainesville, Sapp attended the University of Florida after graduating from high school in Keystone Heights and transferred with his AA degree to Stetson, where he earned a BA in Religious Studies in 1988. He went on to earn a Master of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary and a PhD in Philosophical Theology from the University of Virginia.
After teaching at West Virginia University and Mercer University, he returned to his alma mater in 2006 and taught such courses as “Religion and the Civil Rights Movement,” “Christian Thought and Doctrine,” and “Religion and Sport.”
He is survived by his three children, Kylee, Noah and India, and their mother Lynn. Information on possible memorial services and messages for the family will be provided as it becomes available. The university is making counseling and Chaplain services available to students, faculty and staff, and will develop plans for a future memorial.