H. Neill McFarland

September 3, 1923July 14, 2017

Dr. H. Neill McFarland, Professor Emeritus of History of Religion at Perkins School of Theology, SMU, passed away July 14, 2017. Born in Dallas on September 3, 1923, he lived there most of his 93 years.

A graduate of Woodrow Wilson High, he received a BA from TCU, BD from SMU, and PhD from Columbia University. He served as Assistant Pastor of First Methodist Church of Dallas (1946-47), Associate Pastor of Crown Heights Methodist in Oklahoma City (1947-49), and Pastor of Goodsell Memorial Methodist Church in Brooklyn (1949-1954).

Neill joined the SMU faculty in 1954 and served as Associate Dean of Perkins (1966), Vice President and Provost of SMU (1967-72), and Director of International Programs (1975-79). He authored two books, The Rush Hour of the Gods and Daruma: The Founder of Zen in Japanese Art and Popular Culture, and numerous professional articles. He retired in 1988.

As a visiting professor at Kwansei Gakuin University in Japan (1956-57), he developed a lifelong fascination with Japan, which he visited 14 times. In 1970, he founded the Japan-America Society of Dallas. Deeply committed to the importance of understanding other cultures, he was a prolific lecturer in the community about religions of the world. In Dallas, he served leadership roles in the Japan-America Society, Dallas United Nations Association, Thanks-Giving Square Foundation, and Multicultural Community Center.

At SMU, he received the “M” Award for Outstanding Service to the University from the SMU Students Association (1973), the SMU Alumni Association’s Faculty Award for Excellence (1987), and the Author’s Award from the SMU University Lecture Series (1988). In 1986, he was awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon, by the Emperor of Japan for his contributions to mutual understanding and friendship between the U.S. and Japan. In 2005, he received the Bridges-to-Friendship Award from the Japan-America Society of Dallas/Fort Worth; and in 2014 he was named to the Woodrow Wilson High School Hall of Fame.

In his personal life, he was an avid collector of crosses of the world, stamps, and Japanese folk art, and he enjoyed carpentry, creative woodwork, and tennis.

Preceding him in death were his wife June Balch McFarland and his parents George Albert McFarland and Anna Josephine Neill McFarland. He is survived by his wife Connie of 44 years; his and June’s three daughters Sharon Groves, Anna McFarland, and Marsha McFarland; brother George A. McFarland, Jr., and his wife Rosario; stepson Bill Kamperman and his wife Jean; grandson Brad Groves; granddaughter Erin Street and her husband Chip Street; and great-grandchildren Briana Street and Ayden, Jackson, and Connor Groves. He also leaves nephews and nieces Stephen G. McFarland, Anne McFarland, Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, John McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, David Steel, Janice Normile, Esther Duncan, Jim Routt, and Cindy Losak.

A memorial service will be held on Thursday, July 27, 2017, at 3 pm in Perkins Chapel at SMU. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made in memory of H. Neill McFarland to the Japan-America Society of Dallas/Fort Worth at


  • Memorial Service Thursday, July 27, 2017

H. Neill McFarland

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Sandra Prachyl

August 7, 2017

To Anna and Family,
Our deepest condolences for your loss. We met Dr. McFarland many years ago through the JASDFW and admired his knowledge and dedication to the cause of friendship and cultural awareness between the US and Japan. He will be missed.
Mike and Sandra Prachyl

James Kenney

July 31, 2017

Anna : Our deepest condolences to you and family for McFarland Sensei's passing ... he was a gentleman and scholar and well respected among our fellow Japanologists last memory of him was of us sharing some delicious vegetable tempura appetizer at a JASDF members meeting a couple years ago ... we shall all miss him. James Kenney

Ruben Habito

July 26, 2017

Dr. H. Neill McFarland is a major influence in my life, and my heart abounds with gratitude to him. He welcomed me warmly and enthusiastically to Perkins School of Theology as I arrived in 1989, to take on the faculty position he had occupied for many years and excelled in and became world-renowned for. Those were big shoes to fill indeed, and am still striving to live up to the standards he set in teaching at Perkins, seeking to open students and wider Christian community to the riches of God's gifts to humankind through the various religions and wisdom traditions of the world, especially of Asia. One very personal memory of endearment is how he went out of his way to meet my then-fiancée (now spouse) Maria at her research institute in Kyoto before she came to Perkins to join (and marry) me. Many more endearing memories remain, and i remain deeply grateful for the rest of my life. Currently in international travels until late August, i regret not being able to physically be present at the memorial.but i join everyone in mourning his passing, as i also join in celebrating his life, and convey heartfelt, untold gratitude to one to whom I personally owe so much. Palms joined in prayer, Ruben L.F. Habito, Professor of World Religions and Spirituality, Perkins School of Theology.

Craig Hill

July 24, 2017

Sincere condolences from all of us here at Perkins School of Theology. I regret that I did not have the privilege of working with Professor McFarland, but I have heard much about him and am grateful for his many lasting contributions to our school.

Joan F. Hunt

July 22, 2017

H.Neill McFarland was a wonderful man/leader/SMU. We remember His Japanese study and art at SMU. Richard, passes away on March 20,2016 with pancreatic cancer which I miss him and his kindness very much.Joan Hunt& sons Randy & Ron Hunt

Chuck Aaron

July 21, 2017

I took Japanese religions under him. He was a kind man, a good teacher and a brilliant scholar.

Bill & Norma Matthews

July 21, 2017

With a profound mix of grief and joy, we send our blessings of comfort for the rich life of our friend and colleague, Neill McFarland. His personal influence with us and others was great, as he quietly encouraged many through his leadership in the Dallas Chapter of United Nations Association and the Interfaith Council at ThanksGiving Square. We followed his footsteps into the most important journeys of our lives.
Praise God from whom all blessings have flowed through his faithful servant!

July 21, 2017

Dear Anna, Our deepest condolences to you and your family! How amazing and generous Dr. McFarland was specially with each of JAS members. His kind smile will be remembered by our family. With Prayers, Lucia, Dan, Austin, and Brittini Jentz

Fran Lemery

July 20, 2017

Anna --
My thoughts are with you and your family in the passing of your father. He really lived a long a fruitful life.
Fran Lemery

Hiroki Takeuchi

July 19, 2017

I feel very sad to learn of Dr. Neill McFarland's passing. I have just come back from Japan, hearing this sad news. We have successfully concluded this year's SMU-in-Japan Summer International Studies Program at KGU. The program is deeply rooted in SMU's ties with KGU that Dr. McFarland had developed since the 1950s. You can easily see that he was highly respected at KGU by many people who know him since he was periodically visiting KGU. Thanks to Dr. McFarland's effort, the SMU-in-Japan Program has received tremendous support from many people at KGU, who fondly talks about him.