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Martin Dillon, distinguished professor, dies

Professor Martin “Mike” Dillon
Martin Dillon, 66, distinguished teaching professor of philosophy, died suddenly of a heart attack Thursday, March 10, while visiting his daughter in Switzerland. Dillon came to Binghamton in 1968 as an instructor in philosophy and was recognized with the distinguished teaching professor title by the board of trustees in 1993.

The Dillon family is hosting an celebration of his life from 1-7 p.m. Saturday, March 19, at their home at Ambremerine, RR 1 Box 1960, Friendsville, Pa., 18818. Those interested in directions or in sending a note can contact Melanie Yaworski at 607-777-3616.

Known affectionately to many as “Mike,” Dillon was respected by countless students and colleagues around the world, and loved by many, said Stephen David Ross, professor of philosophy. “He was a philosopher of great intelligence and accomplishment, a loyal colleague and teacher, and a great friend,” Ross said. “His contributions to Merleau-Ponty scholarship are immense, his support for the Merleau-Ponty Circle unmatched. His many students, colleagues and friends knew him as a wonderful person and friend and he will be sorely missed by many.”

Maurice Merleau-Ponty, along with Jean-Paul Sartre, is strongly associated with the philosophy of existentialism, and was a major focus of Dillon’s work.

Called “bigger than life” by friend and colleague Donald Weiss, associate professor of philosophy, Dillon was a magnet for undergraduate majors.

“He was an extremely charismatic teacher, but more than that, he was able to portray philosophy to students in such a way that they fell in love with philosophy,” said BatAmi Bar On, professor and chair of the Department of Philosophy. “They actually found something in philosophy themselves because of his ability to portray that. No question. He is irreplaceable.”

Recognized with the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching early in his career at Binghamton, Dillon was probably the main person in the department to attract undergraduate majors, said Bar On. “Students would just light up and it’s very clear that this will be a tremendous loss to undergraduate students. “He maintained a sense of the wonder of philosophy and a certain perspective about how to think about the major and philosophical education. A very important voice has been lost from that perspective.”

A retired captain in the U.S. Naval Reserve, Dillon authored three books and more than 50 articles, edited two books and was in the process of writing three more whose working titles were “The Ethics of Particularity,” and “Art, Truth, and Illusion: Nietzsche’s Ontology,” and the novel, “The Powerjuice Agon.”

Dillon earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia, a master’s degree in philosophy from the University of California-Berkeley and another master’s and his doctorate in philosophy from Yale University. He was a member of several organizations, including the International Association for Philosophy and Literature, the American Philosophical Association, the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy, the New York State Philosophical Association (Creighton Club), the Society for the Philosophy of Sex and Love and the Canadian Society for Hermeneutics and Postmodern Thought.

Dillon is survived by his wife, Joanne, three daughters and two grandsons. The Department of Philosophy will hold a memorial service at a future date, as will the Merleau Ponty Circle.
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Last Updated: 10/14/08