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KNOXVILLE — University of Tennessee alumni David and Vera Mefford have donated their $1.3 million estate to the UT philosophy department.

The gift will be used to establish the Robert S. Hartman Endowment for Value Theory, which will support graduate student and summer faculty research fellowships, and the Robert S. Hartman Chair of Value Theory.

Hartman, a former UT research professor of philosophy under whom the Meffords studied, believed that he discovered a science of value to measure people’s abilities to value themselves and the world. His work created the foundations for a logic-based system to determine personality differences based on the different values of individuals.

“Value theory is the theory of value — the sense or senses in which things are good, desirable or worthwhile,” said Dr. John Hardwig, UT professor and philosophy department head. “What’s distinctive about Hartman’s work is that he thought there was a formal or mathematical theory of value.”

For more information on Hartman and his work, visit

David Mefford decided to major in philosophy in 1967, the same year UT hired Hartman as a research professor. He received his undergraduate degree in 1970.

“This three-year experience not only changed my life, it became my life,” David Mefford said.

He began his career as a student assistant to Hartman. “I became Dr. Hartman’s disciple. After receiving my Ph.D., I went into business selling and promoting axiological products, especially the Hartman Value Profile.”

The Meffords have had success for 30 years in applying value theory to business and individuals.

Vera Mefford said the couple started their first consulting business in Knoxville “to apply axiology within corporations, helping our clients develop more goodness in all dimensions.

“We have been highly successful in our field,” she said. “We believe that all fields of study — law, medicine, business, education — can benefit greatly from applying this theory.”

David Mefford, who is co-founder and board member of the Hartman Institute, said the couple willed their estate to UT “to guarantee funding and instruction for other students who desire to follow a similar career path.”

The Meffords hope to encourage others to contribute to the Hartman fund to support the study of value theory.

“What a worthy cause to contribute to,” Vera Mefford said. “We want to see it blossom and flourish.”

John Hardwig, (865) 974-3255

Beth Gladden, media relations (865) 974-9008 or