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Philosopher, Animal Rights Advocate Tom Regan Dies at 78

Tom Regan giving his keynote address, "The Seed Never Sees the Flower," on the 100th anniversary of the American Anti-Vivisection Society in June 2007.

Tom Regan, an emeritus professor of philosophy at NC State and an internationally acclaimed advocate of animal rights, died of pneumonia in Raleigh on Feb. 17. He was 78.

Regan joined the NC State philosophy faculty in 1967 and attained the rank of professor in 1978. He served as head of the Department of Philosophy and Religion from 1995 to 1999. After more than 34 years of distinguished service at NC State, he retired in January 2002.

Regan was a visiting scholar at the University of Calgary in 1977, Brooklyn College in 1982 and Eastern Michigan University in 1996. He received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1980/81 and the National Humanities Center in 1984/85.

An award-winning teacher and a prolific author, Regan published more than 20 books and hundreds of articles. His influence extended far beyond the halls of academia, primarily through his work on animal rights. His most famous book, The Case for Animal Rights, was published by the University of California Press in 1983. The book was translated into several languages and had an enormous impact, securing a place for the idea of animal rights on both the philosophical and the public agenda.

During his career, Regan gave numerous lectures to audiences of educators, policymakers, students and the general public across North Carolina, the United States and the world. His topics included not only animal rights, but other major moral issues from abortion and the death penalty to land-use policy and the rights of children.

In his retirement, Regan directed the Culture and Animals Foundation, which he and his wife Nancy established to expand humankind’s understanding and appreciation of other animals and improve the ways in which they are treated.

Regan gave several high-profile lectures in Canada, Sweden, Italy and Greece in 2009. He also received an international award for outstanding contributions to the animal rights movement in Milan and an international award for exceptional contributions to ecology in Athens. In December 2009, the Utne Reader named him “one of the 50 visionaries who are changing your view of the world.”

Regan is survived by his wife Nancy, two children and four grandchildren.