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Dr Oliver Smith

28 June, 1979 – April 2013

Colleagues and students will be painfully aware of the sudden and devastating passing of Oliver Smith, lecturer in the Russian Department. Oliver fell during a hillwalking trip on the Isle of Skye in April 2013, and his body was found two months later on Bla Bheinn, or Blaven.

A gathering was held in St Salvator’s chapel in May 2013 by the University Chaplain, the Rev. Dr Donald MacEwan, to reflect on the gap which Oliver’s disappearance left in our community. A private burial took place on Saturday, 22nd June 2013. It was followed by a memorial service at St Paul’s Cathedral in Dundee.

Oliver joined the School of Modern languages in 2008 as a Teaching Fellow, and he was appointed as a permanent Lecturer in 2010. He was an outstanding teacher and scholar, whose untimely passing is a grievous loss to his family, friends, colleagues and students. His research was focused on the Russian religious and intellectual tradition from the beginning of the 19th century, and particularly on the thought of Vladimir Soloviev. His study, Vladimir Soloviev and the Spiritualization of Matter, was published by the Academic Studies Press in 2011 and was reviewed by his peers as ‘one of the best recent works in English about Soloviev, indeed about Russian philosophy in general’, ‘a nuanced and erudite account of Soloviev’s metaphysics of all-unity’ which ‘tackles complex philosophical concepts with unusual clarity, lucidity and cohesion.’ Oliver also published several pieces on Russian environmental thought, and at the time of his disappearance, he was working on questions of biblical exegesis and the influence of the prophetic tradition on Russian thought. A conference on the prophet Daniel is being dedicated to Oliver. Oliver was not only a prolific writer and highly promising scholar, he was also a very popular teacher who taught on all components of Russian language, as well as honours modules in Russian intellectual history and literature. Colleagues knew him as a brilliant linguist who spoke Russian beautifully and was always happy to take on extra responsibilities, while students appreciated his friendly, approachable manner and obvious enthusiasm for his subject.

Principal Louise Richardson praised Dr Smith in an email to staff and students (PDF, 151 KB) for his ‘dry wit, a very sharp intellect, a scholar with a stellar career ahead of him and, most importantly, a readiness to give of his own time to help others.’

Rebecca Emerick, a former student of Dr Smith’s, told The Saint: ‘Dr Smith was very popular. He was kind, friendly and extremely mischievous – everything you want in a tutor. It was only really when you sat down over a game of Russian Scrabble with him and watched him instantly whip up multiple triple word scores in one go or heard him on the piano that you glimpsed how intense and elegant his mind was. I know I speak for all of us who knew him when I say his absence is felt very deeply.’

If you would like to send a contribution to this page, please contact Elise Hugueny-Léger, esmh@st-andrews.ac.uk