Joel Kupperman (1936-2020)

Joel Kupperman, professor emeritus of philosophy at the University of Connecticut and well-known to many readers of this blog, has died. Every time I encountered Joel I was struck by his grace and humanity; his lectures and writings were invariably insightful and nuanced. Early in his studies he developed a broad understanding of “philosophy” that is all too rare, even today. He will be greatly missed.

Alexus McLeod, one of Joel’s many students and now his successor at the University of Connecticut, shares the following tribute:

I recently learned that my PhD advisor, mentor, and teacher Joel Kupperman (Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Connecticut) passed away earlier this week, after a long illness (unrelated to the current crisis). Joel was not only an amazing scholar and great person (a true 君子), but he was the best mentor I could have hoped for, and I count myself fortunate to have worked with him, during the later years of his career. Joel was one of the wisest, most humble, yet most insightful and creative philosophers I have ever known.

As an advisor, he encouraged me to go in the directions I wanted to and to follow my own path, rather than trying to force me into the “right” direction. He let me do my weirdness, but reined me in when I needed it, and guided with a hand so skillful that I didn’t even realize he was doing it until I looked back on what I’d done well after I’d finished my PhD and moved on. Without his guidance, I would certainly not have made it, either through graduate school, or to the level I’ve reached today.  And such an experience was not mine alone—all of Joel’s other students I have known have had similar experiences.  I have not met a single of his students that does not hold him in the highest regard. I don’t think I’m misrepresenting their views to claim that all of us have looked to Joel as the highest example, as the kind of scholar, teacher, and person we all strive to be. 

His example continues to guide me. I can never repay my debt to him of course, but if I can inspire and guide my own students even a fraction of the extent to which Joel Kupperman inspired and guided me, I will consider this a tribute to him. May he rest in peace, in the arms of the eternal.

Alexus McLeod
Associate Professor of Philosophy and Asian/Asian-American Studies
University of Connecticut

3 replies on “Joel Kupperman (1936-2020)”

  1. Dear Colleagues,

    In honor of Joel and his philosophical legacy, the department and Joel’s family have set up a graduate fellowship fund in his name to provide some financial support for PhD students in the UConn Philosophy Department: The Joel J. Kupperman Memorial Graduate Fellowship at the University of Connecticut Foundation, Inc. Feel free to contribute generously and publicize widely.

    For Diana Meyers’s lovely APA memorial minute for Joel see
    and scroll down.

    Online donations can be made at:

    Donations by check made payable to the UConn Foundation, Inc. (with a memo of: Kupperman Fund) can be mailed to:

    The UConn Foundation, Inc.
    Attn: Data Services
    2390 Alumni Dr., Unit 3206
    Storrs, CT 06269-3206

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