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  • "I knew Stuart from the First Methodist Church in Orlando,..."
    - Mary Birchwood Lawson
  • "I didn't know Stuart McRae personally, but I took 3..."
  • "Stuart, For more than 30 years I have loved you. You,..."
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    - Rachel Hunt
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    - Dana Darley
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On Wednesday, January 30, 2013, Stuart McRae passed away at North Florida Regional hospital. He was born in Boaz, Alabama in 1936 to Irwin and Mildred McRae. He spent most of his childhood and adolescence in Georgia and graduated from high school in Tifton in 1954 where he was a three sport standout. He graduated with a BA from LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia in 1958, after which he went on to earn a divinity degree from Duke University in 1962.

At Duke, he encountered a mentor, Howard Phillips, who was a member of the prestigious Explorers Club in New York City, and his focus became archaeology and anthropology. One of Stuart's proudest moments was participating in an expedition that unearthed a portion of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

In 1967 Stuart arrived at Santa Fe College, then Santa Fe Community College, as a part-time instructor after earning a Masters Degree in Education at the University of Florida and becoming chaplain at Florida Southern College. When Florida Southern terminated his contract because he was "too student oriented," he found a home in the more educationally experimental milieu at SF. He became the anthropology department full time in 1969, a position from which he retired in 2008 as a full professor. He was a fine colleague, and he loved Santa Fe enormously.

He was a spectacular teacher who cared about the success of each and every student who entered his classroom and went to great lengths to ensure it. He relished the challenge of helping students become great. He was inspired and inspiring. He was wonderful mentor to many students who have gone on to have successful academic careers and many more who have gone on to have successful lives. Of course, he won all sorts of awards which included the Florida Association of Community Colleges' Teacher of the year Award and the Alan J. Robertson Medallion, SF's Lifetime Achievement Award.

Stuart was the college's own Indiana Jones. He was a commanding figure who became the first community college professor to be invited to join the American Anthropological Society, not only for his wonderful classroom work but for his work in the field, which included expeditions to Belize, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, and Ecuador. Stuart's students at Santa Fe did Study Abroad before many such programs existed, and he opened the door to extraordinary experiences for them.

He was a natural born raconteur, entertaining audiences in numerous speaking engagements, as well as delighting his many friends with tales from his classroom, travels and archaeological digs, and the race track. He always had new jokes, and you could hear his booming laugh all over campus. He was a romantic, and magic was everywhere he walked.

Stuart had hobbies. He raised and raced thoroughbred horses on his ranch in Archer. He had a boat and fished in the Caribbean. He lived for Duke basketball and all football. He said of his academic career, "First there was God, and then there was Culture, but there was always football!" He was an excellent gardener, and he built his own house. He traveled all over the globe and made friends everywhere. He was an extraordinary human being, and he will be greatly missed.

He is survived by his daughter Kimberly McRae Smoak, his son-in-law Kelly Smoak, who provided great support to him in the last few years, and his grandchildren Kenny and Karleigh Smoak. He was predeceased by his parents and his sister Anne.

Stuart requested cremation, and a celebration of his life will be held in the near future.

The family requests that those wishing to honor Stuart's memory contribute to the Stuart McRae Study Abroad Scholarship at Santa Fe College.

Published in Gainesville Sun from Feb. 3 to Feb. 4, 2013
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