Following a battle with cancer, Dr. O. Herbert Hirt, Dean of PBU’s School of Bible and Ministry, died on April 3, 2012, at home with his family. He had been in hospice care for a month, and many family and friends were able to spend time with him during his last days.
Dr. Hirt earned his Bachelor of Science in Bible degree from PBU in 1977. He continued his theological studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, earning Th.M. and Ph.D. degrees. After teaching at Washington Bible College and Capital Bible Seminary, he, his wife Diane, and their children served as missionaries in The Netherlands from 1989 to 1993. During that time, Dr. Hirt taught at Tyndale Theological Seminary in Amsterdam. Upon their return to the states, Dr. Hirt served as a professor at the Friends of Israel Institute of Biblical Studies from 1993-1996.
In 1996, Dr. Hirt returned to PBU to lead the Institute of Jewish Studies Program (IJS). In 2004, his responsibilities expanded to include the leadership of the School of Bible and Ministry as Dean. In recent years, after he passed the leadership of the IJS (now Bible and Israel) program to others, Dr. Hirt spent more of his time teaching undergraduate and graduate courses and in administration. He also served as the faculty advisor for Mu Kappa, the student missionary kid organization.
In the weeks leading up to his death, his colleagues and students created a group online where they could post messages to Dr. Hirt that he and his family could read. The stories told and lessons learned that were shared on that wall are a testament to the life of a godly mentor, teacher, and friend whose life impacted those who surrounded him.
The stories and thanks shared show the influence of Dr. Hirt both in and out of the classroom. He took the time to meet with students one-on-one when they had questions, or to eat with them in the cafeteria. One former student told of asking Dr. Hirt how he prayed, fully expecting to receive a secret formula for allowing the presence of God into his life. After a long pause, Dr. Hirt answered, “I usually start with something like: ‘Dear God, please help me not to be a complete idiot today.’” Dr. Hirt was a man who understood his humanity and knew his need of a Savior.
Many of his IJS students shared their thanks with him for his patience with them during that first year of their education. Many students shared memories of their travels with him to Israel, Greece, Italy, and Turkey on study tours. Over and over again, students spoke of the lessons they learned from Scripture under Dr. Hirt’s teaching.
As story after story was posted to the group, one thing became very clear. Dr. Hirt had always talked of writing a book, but he never had the time to get it finished. Instead, he wrote into the pages of the lives of his students, colleagues, family, and friends. His sister shared a passage from 2 Corinthians with the group: “You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God…” (2 Cor. 3:2-3a, NASB).
There will be a private family burial with no funeral or viewing. A memorial service open to all will take place at PBU on Saturday, May 5, 2012 at 2pm.
In March 2023, Pennsylvania lawmakers introduced the Compassionate Aid in Dying bill (HB543/SB816). The bill is modeled after Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, which has largely set the framework, in