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Obituary of Russell Kirkland (10/6/1955 - 5/31/2023)

Russell Kirkland

The Department of Religion has received the sad news of the passing of our longtime friend and colleague Prof. Russell Kirkland. In addition to his strong commitment to teaching and his many years of service as undergraduate coordinator, Russ contributed greatly through his many scholarly publications, including his book Taoism: The Enduring Tradition and the articles that he collected on his faculty page. We include his obituary here. 


Russ Kirkland  10/6/1955 - 5/31/2023

Augusta, GA – Entered into rest on Wednesday, May 31, 2023, James Russell “Russ” Kirkland, 67.


Family members include his niece: Jennifer Houston (Tyson) and their children: Jackson Houston, Ryan Houston and Kyle Houston; brother: Charlie Kirkland (Denise) and aunt: Barbara Haig.

Russ entered what is now Augusta State University at the age of 15, and transferred to Brown University midway through his freshman year. In 1976 he completed his AB in Religious Studies and a simultaneous AM in Asian History. He later earned an MA in Religious Studies (1982) and PhD in East Asian Languages & Cultures (1986) from Indiana University. He has taught at the University of Rochester, University of Missouri, Stanford University, Oberlin College, and Macalester College.

In 1994, he began a long career as a professor at the University of Georgia in the Department of Religious Studies. He found his love and passion as an educator and spent many years teaching. In 2012, he had a stroke that ended his teaching career and he accepted his disability retirement in 2014. 

Russ learned to live a quiet life as a retiree. He enjoyed walking through the neighborhood and by the River a few blocks away. He also had a passion for sports… especially the Atlanta Braves and the Georgia Bulldogs.

Jennifer and Russ reconnected after many years and her family came to mean a lot to him (and he to them). He spent time with her family every few months and became a huge part in their lives. Although the “hustle and bustle” of Jennifer’s family often became overwhelming to him, he enjoyed being part her family and watching their interactions with each other.

A memorial service will be held Saturday, June 10, 2023 at 11:00 A.M. at Unity of Augusta Church with Rev. Karen Romestan officiating. The family will receive friends one hour prior to the service at the church. A private burial in Atlanta will occur at a later date.

Memorial contributions may be made to Unity Church, 2301 Central Avenue, Augusta, GA 30904 or to the Georgia Cancer Center, 1120 15th Street, Augusta, GA 30912.

Thomas Poteet & Son Funeral Directors, 214 Davis Rd., Augusta, GA 30907 (706) 364-8484. Please sign the guestbook at





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