IN MEMORIAM: Richard Pfaff '66


The Rev. Dr. Richard William Pfaff, Class of 1966 and recipient of our Doctor of Divinity, honoris causa in 2012, died July 10, 2016 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, at the age of 79. The son of Frederick Erwin and Kathryn Soergel Pfaff, Richard Pfaff was born in Oklahoma City on August 6, 1936, and graduated from Central High School in Omaha, from Harvard College, and from Oxford University, by which he was awarded the degrees of Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Divinity. He married Margaret Campbell in Oxford in 1962. After his studies at General, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1966, and was curate at Christ Church, Suffern, New York.

In 1967, they came to Chapel Hill, where he was a professor in the University of North Carolina History Department, with primary responsibility for Medieval England, until retiring as Professor Emeritus in 2006. Within the University, he served, among other offices, as Secretary of the Faculty, Chairman of the Library Board, and member of the Chancellor's Executive Advisory Committee. In addition to his work at UNC, he was active in the wider scholarly world, particularly in England, where much of his research centered and where he was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.

Pfaff's many scholarly studies focused upon liturgy, culminating in his book The Liturgy in Medieval England: A History, which was awarded the 2012 Haskins Medal of the Medieval Academy of America, of which he was a Fellow, and sometime President. In addition to his scholarly and academic work, he was a Priest Associate at the Chapel of the Cross, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, from 1968 until his death. In the integration of his academic and ecclesiastical passions, he lived in the tradition of the scholar-priest, an ideal which deeply formed his character and work.

Following the death of his wife in 2010, he moved to Carol Woods Retirement Community. In recent years, he found profound love and companionship with Jeanette Falk Pfaff, whom he married in April of this year, and by whom he is survived.

In addition, he is survived by son David and their children Andrew, Helen, and Edward, all of Milwaukee; sister, Barbara Finlayson; nieces, Ann Haggstrom and Kathy Kresin, and their families, all of Omaha; brother-in-law, Edward Campbell; nephew, Thomas, and niece, Sarah Campbell, and their families, all of Portland, Maine. He is mourned by all members of the West Omaha Soft Ice Cream and Walking Society, of which he was the founder.

A funeral was held at the Chapel of the Cross, on July 16, 2016.  Condolences may be shared at