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Petty, PhD, Benjamin Aby

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April 15, 1921 - October 10, 2018

Petty, PhD, Benjamin Aby

Dr. Benjamin Aby Petty Ph.D. passed into the arms of the lord on October 10, 2018. He was 97. Dr. Petty’s final moments were accompanied by grandchildren and great grandchildren. He was Chairman Emeritus of the Philosophy Department at SMU, where he taught for 58 years.

Dr. Petty was born April 15, 1921 to Maurice F. Petty and Myrtle Aby Petty in New Orleans, LA. Dr. Petty attended New Orleans public schools. He graduated from McMain HS, which his father’s company had built. He graduated with Honors from Tulane University with a BA in English and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He married Mary Ent Pearce, an Honors Graduate from Sophie Newcomb at age 18.

Dr. Petty graduated from Emory University with Honors with a Masters of Divinity and was ordained as a Methodist Minister. While he was attending Emory, he was the Minister to several rural churches in Georgia. His studies next took him to Boston University where he earned a Ph.D. in Philosophy. While in Boston, he was the Minister at 2 churches and lived in the basement of a church with his wife and new born son.

After completing his studies in Boston, he returned to New Orleans as Assistant Minister at Rayne Memorial Methodist Church on St. Charles Avenue. But his love was to teach. In 1953 he was hired by Southern Methodist University to teach in the Religion Department. Over the years he taught Religion, Philosophy, Nature of Man, Ethics, and in the Masters of Liberal Arts (MLA) program. He taught for 58 years at SMU, teaching his last class and retiring at 91! He also taught a Sunday School Class at University Park United Methodist Church for over 50 years.

Dr. Petty was the longest serving professor at SMU and was honored to lead Graduation Commencement for many years. He was awarded many awards and honors over the years and he most praised awards from students. He served as Secretary Treasurer for the American Association of University Professors and President for 25 years. He also was Secretary Treasurer and President of Phi Beta Kappa for 16 years, as well as serving on the SMU Pre-Med Recommendation Committee for 33 years.

Dr. Petty is survived by a son, Benjamin P. Petty and his wife, Carolyn; a daughter Ann Petty, 6 grandchildren, and 6 great grandchildren.


A Memorial Service will be held at University Park United Methodist Church on November 7th at 3:00 pm. Refreshments will follow the celebration of his life in Fellowship Hall.

Interment will be at a later date in the Aby tomb in New Orleans, where his parents and relatives are interned.


Arrangements under the direction of:
ARIA Cremation Service and Funeral Home
19310 Preston Road
Dallas, Texas 75252
214 306 6700

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Samantha Cavanaugh

November 01, 2018 3:37PM

I thoroughly enjoyed my classes with Dr. Petty. He had such a wealth of knowledge and wisdom. I will always cherish my memories of him and our class discussions, both in and outside of the classroom. He will be missed by many, but I know he is now reunited with his wife, whom he spoke of with loving memories. My sympathy and respect to his family in this time of loss.

John A. Hall

October 31, 2018 2:13AM

I have fond memories of working with Ben at SMU. He was an outstanding university citizen who cared a great deal for our students and their success. Deepest sympathies and heartfelt prayers to his family.