Hibbett & Hailey Funeral Home

429 Donelson Pike, Nashville, TN


Dr. Harvill Carlton Eaton

May 16, 1948March 2, 2020
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Dr. Harvill Carlton Eaton passed away March 2, 2020, at the age of 71, in Cleveland, Ohio while seeking a transplant at the Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Eaton will forever be loved and remembered by many, but most importantly by his wife of 50 years Lois Jean Eaton (Acuff), his son and daughter-in-law, Christopher Carlton Eaton and Meredith Chelyan Eaton, and their two sons Caleb and Samuel, his daughter Mary Elizabeth Blair and her two daughters Camilla and Elizabeth. He is also survived by his brother Robert Michael Eaton and numerous nephews, nieces and cousins. He was preceded in death by his mother Margaret Elizabeth Eaton, his father Robert Caldwell Eaton and his sister Connie Frank Eaton (Williamson).

Dr. Eaton was first and foremost a family man, who spent his non-working hours devoted to his wife, children and grandchildren. He cherished his friendships and his students. He possessed an uncommon joy of life and learning. He was infinitely curious. He was a kind and gentle soul who played multiple instruments, enjoyed music, history, nature and meeting new people. He enjoyed walking, hiking and camping, was adept at identifying native flora and fauna, and, being ever the educator, passing along that knowledge to anyone who would listen. He was an avid ham radio operator and enjoyed anything dealing with technology or electronics. He devoted countless hours to scouting, the Boys and Girls Club, Rotary Club, Campus Ministries and numerous other philanthropic organizations.

Harvill was the rare individual who could juggle the most demanding professional duties while always being there for and accessible to his wife, children, grandchildren, friends and students. His kindness, love, honesty, and integrity defined him. Harvill started everyday whistling, smiling and excited to greet each person who crossed his path. No doubt he was brilliant as an engineer, scientist, and leader, but above all he was a people person. He loved to talk to anyone and everyone about history, science, religion, politics, culture, nature, or any subject under the sun. He loved to travel and lived that by seeing the world with Lois and his children. You could ask Harvill “Do you want to go?” and the answer was always yes, regardless of the destination. “Go!” was the operative word.

Dr. Eaton was a native of Nashville, Tennessee. He became the first in his family to graduate high school when he earned his degree from Two Rivers High in 1966. He went on to earn Baccalaureate and Master’s degrees in Engineering Science and Mechanics from Tennessee Technological University. While at Tennessee Tech, he was a member of Theta Tau Engineering fraternity where he served as president. He was also a decorated and distinguished member of the ROTC. He followed this by earning a PhD in materials science from Vanderbilt University in 1976. Post Doctorate studies included time at the University of Oxford in Oxford, England, Cambridge University in Cambridge, England, and the NATO Advanced Studies Institute in Ghent, Belgium.

He was forever a teacher and a scientist, and was deeply committed to the history and values of the world of higher education and the Academy. Most of the first 21 years of his career were spent at Louisiana State University where he began teaching in the Department of Engineering Science. He rapidly advanced to become Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies. He then moved to the upper administrative ranks at LSU serving as Vice-Chancellor for Research and Economic Development. During his tenure in that position he raised over $120 million for the university and served as the founding director of the J. Bennett Johnston Center for Advanced Microstructures and Devices and its adjacent research park. He also served as interim director of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium during his time at LSU.

Following his work at LSU, he became Vice-President for Research and then Provost at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. During his tenure there he tripled research funding after his first four years. In partnership with Drexel University, he became Director of MCP Hahnemann University, a medical and health sciences academic institution owned by Drexel.

In 2004, Dr. Eaton and Lois moved back to his home state to be closer to family and to accept a position as 25th President of Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee. He took great pride in the institution, loved the staff, the community and most importantly, the students. While there he guided the expansion of enrollment, new dorms, led a massive expansion of the nursing program, and made the key decision to begin accepting students funded through the Tennessee Promise. He continued to nurture the University until his retirement in 2015.

During Dr. Eaton’s retirement he continued work by consulting with the University of Memphis and Lipscomb University before proudly and joyfully taking on a position at his alma-mater, Tennessee Tech, as Interim Vice-President for Research.

Other work included a sabbatical at Chalmers University of Technology in Goteborg, Sweden, multiple stints at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, time as a research fellow at Veterans Hospital in Nashville and as a systems engineer at Electronic Data Systems in Dallas.

He was directed in all these endeavors by an inherent goodness, guided by his faith. He was raised in the Church of Christ and spent his adult years worshiping with the United Methodist Church. He lived his faith, not by preaching scripture, but by living the meaning of that scripture through his actions.

Visitation will be at Hibbett & Hailey Funeral Home on Monday, March 9, 2020 from 4:00 pm until 8:00 pm, and Tuesday, March 10, 2020 from 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm.

The Celebration of Life will be conducted at Hibbett & Hailey Funeral Home on Tuesday, March 10, 2020 at 2:00 pm with Dr. Jonathan Richerson officiating. Interment will follow at Mount Olivet Cemetery.


  • Caleb Eaton
  • Brad Dozier
  • Adam Dozier
  • Ryan Dozier
  • William R. Smotherman
  • Steve Stewart
  • Robert Michael Eaton, Honorary
  • Sam Eaton, Honorary
  • 1966 Class of Two Rivers High School, Honorary
  • "Post 88 Lunch Crew", Honorary


  • Visitation Monday, March 9, 2020
  • Visitation Tuesday, March 10, 2020
  • Celebration of Life Tuesday, March 10, 2020


Dr. Harvill Carlton Eaton

have a memory or condolence to add?

john acuff

March 27, 2020

he was a good and Godly man that i have known and loved for most of fifty years and I miss him. I pray peace to Lois Jean and the family .

Harriett Warren

March 13, 2020

As his Spanish teacher for three years, I found that Harvill was a brilliant, creative student who enjoyed life, his friends and learning. He helped me with the electronics of a language laboratory and with his friends in class wrote some very interesting and creative conversations in Spanish which they presented to their class every week. He and his classmates were among my favorite students at Two Rivers High School and he is already sorely missed.

Mickey Phipps

March 10, 2020

Harvil and I met first as Freshman in the same dorm at TTU. He and Steve Dozier encouraged me to pledge Theta Tau Fraternity and we became "brothers" and good friends. Recently after many years we had a good conversation and got caught up on family and career. So sorry to hear about his passing and my condolences to Lois and family. Mickey Phipps

Mary Catalfamo

March 10, 2020

My condolences to Dr. Eaton's family at this time. Harvill was sincere in his efforts to improve the world around him and had a wonderful sense of humor! I remember meeting him on my first day at Drexel University and was struck by his genuine niceness. I have many happy memories of his time at Drexel and will remember him as a scholar and gentleman.

Dewayne Alexander

March 10, 2020

I will forever be grateful to Dr. Eaton for giving me the opportunity to be the Head Football Coach at Cumberland University. We had dinner at Logan's Roadhouse in Gallatin, Tn. and he offered me the job. I worked with Dr. Eaton for seven years and his door was always open. While serving as an interim in the Engineering department at Tennessee Tech last year, we often had lunch together in the TTU cafeteria. We both shared strong feelings for CU and TTU. Prayers of comfort for Lois and the family. Go Bulldogs!

mitch walters

March 10, 2020

My thoughts are with the Eaton Family.

Francis Otuonye

March 9, 2020

Dr. Harvill Eaton was very caring and humble. A man of great measure. I pray the Almighty God to receive him in heaven, console and strengthen his family to endure their loss.

Allen Gebhardt

March 8, 2020

Probably the finest, most well-rounded person I have ever known. I know he touched many people, thus lives on.

Marilyn Meares

March 8, 2020

Harvill was one of the first people to reach out to me when I was the “new girl” at TRHS. His kindness, intellect and wisdom made classes infinitely better. We have communicated occasionally over the years. I never knew his family but I feel their loss.
He was truly a good man.
Marilyn Meares

Sharon Ford

March 8, 2020

Wanted you to know how very proud we are of all of Harvill's accomplishments in life. He was smart, funny, and a friend to all who met him. I know that Aunt Margaret wanted me to address him as Dr. Harvill, Dr. Eaton or Dr. Butch. I just could not do that. However, to me, even now, we are all still young, a forever summer memory. You will always be just "Butch". Rest for now and one day soon we all shall gather together. Cousin Sharon and family.