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Gene Hatfield, 72: Professor had big influence at Clayton State

Gene Hatfield, a Clayton State University Professor Emeritus of History who spent 32 years at CSU, will be missed on campus.

“I cannot think of another faculty member in the College of Arts and Sciences who has had a greater impact on the larger community beyond the University,” Dr. Nasser Momayezi, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said. “He was heavily involved in promoting his discipline, and he was firmly engaged in serving others. I will miss Gene. We all will.”

Hatfield, 72, died Jan. 12.

John Kohler, also a Professor Emeritus of History, said Hatfield and he were friends from the time he arrived at the college in 1976. “We were new to the area and our faculty colleagues became our earliest circle of friends — a band of academic brothers, if you will, initiating a relationship that lasted for decades.”

Kohler described his friend as a “great conversationalist and storyteller,” who carried a professional demeanor into all his activities and was fun to be with. Hatfield was “actively involved” in the civic and political life of the college community “and later his leadership roles extended to the state as a whole.”

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Hatfield was part of the first group of faculty who taught at Clayton State in its early years, and he saw the school transform from a two-year college to a four-year university that offered bachelor’s and master’s programs, an athletics program, and many other academic expansions.

Retirement did not stop Hatfield from contributing to the community. He spent time as president of the Clayton State Retiree’s Association and made a large donation, the year of his retirement, to establish the Gene Hatfield Annual Service Awards.

Hatfield also participated in state government, holding the position of chairman of the Clayton County Democratic Party and elected twice as a delegate to the Democratic National Conventions, 1984 in San Francisco and 1988 in Atlanta. From serving as chairman of the Sixth District Congressional Committee to serving as a member of the State Executive Committee, “Hatfield had a front-row seat to the development of Atlanta into an emerging metropolis in the South and international gateway,” said a statement from CSU.

“I’ve known Dr. Hatfield for a number of years, and he’s an outstanding individual,” 1976 graduate James N. Baker told the Clayton News Daily during Hatfield’s 2008 retirement. “Dr. Hatfield is someone who has been a big part of south metro Atlanta over the past decades.”

Kohler said, “For a while, I was Gene’s department head and dean and had the opportunity to see his many accomplishments and his classroom performance up close. Gene cared about his students, knew them well, and formed lasting relationships with them. And they responded in kind, holding him in high esteem, often stating that his was their most rewarding course.”

Hatfield was passionate about history and was a member of history-related civic groups such as the Georgia Association of Historians and Georgia Civil War Commission (which helps the state preserve and promote the buildings, sites, and battlefields of the Civil War). He also served as a member of the Friends of the Georgia Archives.

“In the 1990s our band of academic brothers and their wives began meeting frequently for dinner and conversation,” Kohler said, “Because conversations were frequently animated and participants had booming professorial voices we usually needed a room separate from other diners. Gene was always a man of strong opinion and we found ways to argue even when we all agreed.”

Hatfield is survived by wife Carol; two children Ann Patterson (Ryan) and Edward (Brittney Baack), and two granddaughters Amelia and Dorothy Patterson; sisters Joan Record, Amy Regenbogen (Jerry), and brother Robert Hatfield. A memorial service will be Feb. 11 at 11 a.m. at First Presbyterian Church Jonesboro.

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