Moreland Perkins, who was mayor of Riverdale Park from 1987-1988 and Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at University of Maryland, came to the end of a long and full life Nov. 7, completing a journey.
Perkins passed away from aspiration pneumonia Wednesday, November 7, at the age of 85. He is survived by his children, Katherine Teresa Perkins, 50, of Durham, Maine, Owen Mark Perkins, 48 of Denver, Colorado, his grandchildren, Benjamin Barrett Civiletti, 21, a student at the University of Vermont in Burlington and Robert Moreland Civiletti, 18, a student at The College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, his step-mother, Julie Perkins, 101, of Richmond, his ex-wife, Patricia Barrett Perkins, of Baltimore, Maryland, and his partner, Josephine Fisk Singer, of Boston, Massachusetts.
Perkins spent the bulk of his career in the Philosophy Department at the University of Maryland, specializing in Philosophy of the Mind, teaching at the graduate and undergraduate level and serving as the primary advisor to students completing their doctoral dissertations. After his retirement in 1986, he was named Professor Emeritus at Maryland, and the Moreland Perkins Fellowship in Philosophy has since been established in their Philosophy Department.
Perkins was elected mayor of Riverdale, Maryland, as a reform candidate. Following his tenure as mayor, in the subsequent election, his candidates won the mayor’s seat and five of the council’s six seats, bringing change to the community.
Perkins was born in Richmond, Virginia on April 16, 1927, the son of Edward Moreland Perkins and Marion O’Sullivan Perkins. He was preceded in death by his sister, Nancy Perkins Kalina. He attended Thomas Jefferson High School, Class of ’44, and coordinated their 50th anniversary reunion in 1994. He was an All-American athlete in football, basketball, and track.
From Richmond, Perkins enrolled in the University of Virginia and then the Virginia Military Institute. He joined the Navy to serve his country in World War II, and was in Oxford, Mississippi for his training and further studies at Ole Miss. After the War, he transferred to Harvard University, where he studied under and was mentored by the great philosopher Henry David Aiken. He went on to earn his B.A. (1948), M.A. (1949), and Ph.D. (1953) in Philosophy at Harvard, and then taught at Brown University, Ohio State University, Toronto University, Michigan Tech, and the State University of New York at Cortland, then took a fellowship at Johns Hopkins University, before settling into a long and distinguished career at the University of Maryland.
Perkins published two books, a ground-breaking philosophical analysis of sense-perception, Sensing the World (Hackett, 1983), and a literary analysis of Jane Austen’s work, Reshaping the Sexes in Sense and Sensibility (University Press of Virginia, 1998). Sensing the World also won The Journal of Philosophy’s Johnsonian Prize in Philosophy for 1982.
A lifelong activist who gained recognition for his opposition to the Vietnam War and the proliferation of atomic and nuclear weapons in the ‘60s, highlighted by his 1967 speech “Too Late for Antique Vows,” Perkins worked throughout his life to promote civil rights, equality, and justice.
Perkins later retired to Florida, where he published his second book and volunteered with elementary school children in Daytona Beach, helping to establish a gifted and talented program to help students strive to reach their full potential. He was an admissions representative for Harvard, and he guided local students in the process of choosing and applying to colleges and universities
Retirement gave him the opportunity to pursue his lifelong passion for some of the most significant writers of English literature. He took numerous trips to England where he devised his own itinerary by walking the paths that inspired Austen, William Wordsworth, and Thomas Hardy, among others. In recent years, he completed a book-length literary analysis of Wordsworth’s poetry.
In 2011, an ailing Perkins returned to Baltimore, where his former wife Patricia, cared for him during his final 15 months. He began new work, digging into the creativity and imagination that led George Washington to success as a general and a president. He followed the Nov. 6 election closely, having been one of Barack Obama’s earliest supporters, and he took great joy in celebrating Tuesday’s election night results before falling ill and passing away on Wednesday.
A celebration of Perkins’ life is tentatively scheduled for Friday, November 23rd, and friends of Perkins and his family are welcome at the Perkins home at 101 Park Lane in Baltimore. In lieu of flowers, the family encourages donations in Perkins’ name to the the Nature Conservancy, Audubon Society, or to the Alzheimer’s Association.