Officially, he was professor in both the departments of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies and South Asia Regional Studies. Despite his stature among colleagues around the world, Professor Halbfass was a gentle, quiet and unassuming intellectual, friends said.
"He was very humble and open and patient with students," said Thomas B. Ellis, a doctoral student of the professor's. "He never made the student feel inferior."
His brilliance was evident when comprehending other cultures, Ellis said.
"He would study other cultures and intellectual systems in their own languages," Ellis said. "He knew Sanskrit and Pali, a vernacular of Sanskrit."
Professor Halbfass earned his doctoral degree in Indian philosophy from the University of Goettingen in 1967. He was drawn to Eastern philosophy while studying Western cultures.
His first position was as assistant professor at his alma mater.
In 1970, Professor Halbfass began a three-year assignment at Brock University at St. Catherines in Ontario, before joining the Penn faculty in 1973 as a professor.
During his career, he also taught at frequent intervals as invited professor at other universities in the United States and in Europe.
His pastime was music, particularly listening to classical composer Richard Wagner while working.
He is survived by his wife, Helga Marquardt Halbfass; daughters, Sonja and Vera; his parents, Willi and Ilse-Marie; and a brother. Professor Halbfass would have celebrated his 32d wedding anniversary today.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. today at Chadwick & McKinney Funeral Home, 30 E. Athens Ave., Ardmore. Burial is private.
Dominic Sama's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org