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Stephens, Ira Kendrick (1887–1956)

Amanda Oren Biography Entry

Ira Kendrick Stephens, philosopher and teacher, was born on October 6, 1887, in Chico, Texas. He started his college education at Austin College in 1905 but had to drop out because of poor health. From 1906 to 1911 he taught in small country schools in Wise County on five-month contracts and also worked as a farmer. He enrolled in 1911 at Polytechnic College in Fort Worth and subsequently at Southwestern University, from which he received his A.B. in 1914. He was principal at Mart High School in McLennan County from 1914 to 1917, when he enrolled as a graduate student at Southern Methodist University. In 1918–19 he served as a private in the Allied Expeditionary Forces in France, fighting in battles such as St. Mihiel and the Argonne Forest. After the war he was the principal of Honey Grove High School in Fannin County for one year. At that time he met Irmine Hayes, a fellow teacher, whom he married on August 16, 1920. They had two children. Stephens returned to Southern Methodist University, completed his M.A. in 1921, and was appointed an instructor of philosophy and psychology at SMU. In 1922 he was made assistant professor, and in 1923, associate professor. In 1926 he completed his Ph.D. at Harvard and was promoted to full professor. In the summers of 1929, 1930, 1933, and 1936, he worked at Harvard on various projects. One of his main areas of study, critical philosophy, was the subject of several articles he wrote for the Southwest Review. His most famous book was the Hermit Philosopher of Liendo (1951). Throughout his last decade of teaching at Southern Methodist University, science majors took Stephens's course in the philosophy of science. Stephens was president of the Southwestern Philosophical Conference. He also served as president of the Philosophical Society of Texas in 1936 and director from 1936 to 1938, 1941 to 1945, and yet again in 1948. He was a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Association of University Professors, the American Philosophical Association, the Texas Academy of Science, and the Dallas Historical Society. He was an honorary member of the Southern Methodist University chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. Stephens died on March 16, 1956, in Dallas.

Proceedings of the Philosophical Society of Texas, 1956.


  • Education
  • Patrons, Collectors, and Philanthropists

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Amanda Oren, “Stephens, Ira Kendrick,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 28, 2020,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.