|by Jim Amidon • December 1, 2008||Read Comments ||
The Wabash College community is mourning the loss of one of its most influential teachers and scholars. William C. Placher ’70, the LaFollette Distinguished Professor in the Humanities, passed away over the weekend at the age of 60.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, December 6 at 2:00 p.m. in the Pioneer Chapel on the Wabash College campus. A reception will follow in the Sparks Center. Pursuant to Dr. Placher's wishes, in lieu of flowers memorial donations may be made to Wabash College.
"Bill was one of the most influential and revered professors at Wabash," said College President Patrick White. "In a long line of great teachers, mentors, and scholars, Bill will be remembered as one of the legends. As a student, faculty member, leader, and role model for students, faculty, and all of us who love Wabash, Bill Placher was our teacher and will remain an exemplar of the best imagination of the mind, heart, and spirit of the College."
Dr. Placher was on leave from Wabash and was serving a one-year appointment as the Kilian McDonnell Writer-In-Residence at the Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research at St. John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota.
A summa cum laude graduate of Wabash in 1970, Placher was elected into Phi Beta Kappa and Eta Sigma Phi. He earned his master's degree in philosophy from Yale University in 1974 and completed his Ph.D. a year later, also from Yale.
Placher was in his 34th year as one of Wabash’s most popular teachers. He began teaching as an instructor while pursuing his graduate degrees during the 1972-73 and 1974-75 academic years, and was named an assistant professor in 1975. He rose to full professor in 1984 and became the LaFollette Distinguished Professor in the Humanities in 1999.
For decades, Wabash upperclassmen gave the following advice to prospective students and freshmen planning their careers at Wabash: "Make sure to take a course with Placher."
In 2002, the American Academy of Religion named him the best teacher in the country, honoring him with the Excellence in Teaching Award. He received the McLain-McTurnan Award for Excellence in Teaching at Wabash in 1980. In 2006, the Indiana Humanities Council honored him with the Indiana Humanities Award for his teaching, scholarship, and collegiality.
Placher was a member and leader of the Wabash Avenue Presbyterian Church in Crawfordsville. Early members of that church helped found Wabash College 176 years ago.
He was the author of 13 books, including the well-regarded books A History of Christian Theology, Unapologetic Theology, Narratives of a Vulnerable God, The Domestication of Transcendence, Jesus the Savior, and The Triune God. He also edited the textbook, Essentials of Christian Theology, which was honored by both Christian Century and Christianity Today. He gave more than 40 invited lectures and was the author of literally dozens of essays, articles, and reviews.
"We human persons are always failing to be fully personal," Placher wrote in A Triune God. "As persons, we are shaped by our relations with other persons. Yet we always deliberately raise barriers or cannot figure out how to overcome the barriers we confront. When those we most love come to die, or in the dementia of old age are no longer able understand what we may most want to say to them, we realize how much there was in our hearts that we never shared with them. When we best articulate our ideas, we cannot escape the feeling that there was something there we never quite captured. When we most rejoice in sharing with someone different from ourselves, difference nevertheless scares us. The doctrine of the Trinity, however, proclaims that true personhood, however impossible its character may be for us to imagine, involves acknowledging real difference in a way that causes not fear but joy."
Placher chaired the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Wabash from 1996-2002. He was also the Chair of the Advisory Committee of the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion, was an editor at large of Christian Century, and, with Amy Plantinga Pauw, one of the two editorial consultants for Westminster John Knox Press’ forthcoming 36-volume Theological Commentary on the Bible.
Placher used his sabbatical leaves to teach elsewhere. He was a visiting scholar in the Religious Studies Department at Stanford in 1980-81; a visiting professor of religion at Haverford College in 1985, a member of the Center of Theological Inquiry at Princeton in 1987-88 and 1994-95, and was a senior fellow at the Martin Marty Center for the Advanced Study of Religion at the University of Chicago in 2001-02.
Placher served Wabash in literally dozens of capacities. He directed the Great Lakes Colleges Association Aberdeen Scotland study-abroad program for three years, and served as chair of the advisory committee for the program for decades. He was elected to serve on the 1988 Presidential Search Committee for Wabash, and twice served as the faculty visitor to the Wabash College Board of Trustees. He was the secretary of the Wabash chapter of Phi Beta Kappa from 1989 to 1995.
Placher was a superb colleague. Assistant Professor of English Tim Lake recalls an early encounter with Placher:
"We talked about my career development and research agenda and, in an awesome show of generosity to a newly minted PhD, he agreed to read my dissertation," said Lake, who is also Director of the Malcolm X Institute of Black Studies. "Placher's keen eye and subtle mind helped me to see the muddiness of some my arguments and, also, the few gems of genuine insight there as well. His comments on my work were careful and encouraging — even offering to put me into contact with his editor — and meant more to me than my note of "Thanks" could express.
"Above all, I will always cherish the his sermons during Wednesday chapel. At times when I felt my own faith waning, I would recall Placher and find strength in the fact that he was a man of faith. I'd tell myself, 'If keeping faith puts me in the company of people like Placher, then that's not a bad crowd to be in.'
"'Thank you, Bill' for being such good company."
Placher was a frequent and exceptionally popular Chapel speaker. At a chapel talk honoring the 175th anniversary of the College’s founding, he said:
"Dear friends, there is a live tradition in the air around us as well, a tradition of curricular debates and football coaches and poets and alumni who went far away but never quite forgot their old college. We learn from our history that this college can respect even those who disagree with its institutional decisions, that our traditions have a dark side of prejudice, and that even those who go furthest away can remember this small college with affection.
"What we love well, our true heritage, is above all the teaching and learning that goes on here, one person to another, very different kinds of people interacting and arguing and coming to care about each other, as people at Wabash do in 2007 and did in 1907 and have ever since our founders knelt in the snow in the midst of the frontier forest a hundred and seventy-five years ago this year."
At Homecoming Chapel in 1996, Placher said in a sermon, "The way we best show our love to the whole world is… to love with a particular passion some little part of it."
Indeed, Wabash College is blessed that Placher chose "this little part" of the world to love and honor throughout his lifetime.
Alumni and friends are invited to post comments to this story.
Bill Placher gave the Commencement Address at the graduation ceremony for the Class of 1970. You can read the address — and an ABC News Commentary about the remarks — by clicking here.
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|Dr. Placher is a legend. We will miss you.|
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|My tribute to William C. Placher posted by Aksconsultancy (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 10/08/11 02:25 PM|
|William C. Placher was a great teacher and scholar. All the teachers may follow him.|
posted by Khadiza (email@example.com) on 02/28/10 04:50 PM
|I met Bill Placher in July 1978 when I interviewed for a job at Wabash College -- along with two other faculty members, he took me to lunch.|
posted by John Adams (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 11/18/09 06:59 AM
|sorry for the loss|
posted by Stan Gabby (email@example.com) on 11/08/09 10:46 PM
|I had always heard about what a great prof Dr. Placher was, but until I took senior seminar I wasn't really able to understand why he want to do any thing or every thing for students|
posted by Joarge Jacson (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 10/27/09 05:24 AM
|It was Professor Placher, after all, that allowed him to be where I am today--teaching at a New York City high school after receiving a master's in religion from Harvard Divinity School. He was a true Wabash Man and his memory and legacy will live on and on... I pray for him and everyone who owes him their own debts of gratitude.|
posted by John Matt (email@example.com) on 07/16/09 08:42 PM
|Through my son Darren I was introduced to Bill Placher. Professor Placher was an invaluable mentor to Darren academically and a special model of how a faculty member can live out his life valuing persons with all their strengths and their frailties.
On Darren's recommendation I read some of Bill Placher's writing, benefitting from his ideas and the humane perspective that made the ideas applicable for mind and heart.
I'm glad to have had the opportunity to meet Bill Placher in person and through his writing. With others I grieve his passing and celebrate the difference he made in the lives of so many people.|
posted by Barbara Cambridge (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 12/11/08 02:39 PM
|I was a Religion major from 1968-1972. I met Bill when he returned from his year at St Andrew's University.
I visited with him when he was at Yale.
My last visit was a lunch in Crawfordsville in 2005. We talked at length about lay leadership in the theological life of a church or , in my case, a synagouge. He was succinct, insightful and engaging.
There is a tradition in Judaism that the worthy and pious spend eternity studying Torah with Abraham. I have no doubt Abraham will be better for the experience of studying with Bill.
Larry Zommick (1972)|
posted by Larry Zommick (email@example.com) on 12/09/08 11:46 PM
|I remain blessed to have been a Placher pupil and a recipient of his sermons when he visited the Omena Presbyterian Church just north of my home in Suttons Bay, MI. My dearest memory of Professor Placher is seeing Ghostbusters with Bill, and Chris Ferris '86, in West Lafayette in the summer of 1984. How cool was that?|
posted by Kyle Carr 1985 (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 12/09/08 04:55 PM
|I am stunned. I just came to the Wabash site to get Professor Placher's e-mail address to write him with a question about traveling to Japan next summer to study Shinto. It was Professor Placher, after all, that allowed him to be where I am today--teaching at a New York City high school after receiving a master's in religion from Harvard Divinity School. He was a true Wabash Man and his memory and legacy will live on and on...
I pray for him and everyone who owes him their own debts of gratitude.|
posted by Kyle M. Hall (email@example.com) on 12/07/08 08:48 PM
|Thinking of Wabash Men, three particular people come to mind. On of them is Professor Placher. His desire to both learn and teach created an environment of deep though through which all who engaged would grow and be enlightened. With his wisdom, he had every right to declare answers but I sill remember him pushing me to find the answer myself. When in his presence, you were captivated by his knowledge but more significantly by his respect for each person he would meet and his sincere desire to see them as something significant. For these and all the wonders you did at Wabash and beyond, thank you Professor Placher.|
posted by Chris Buresh (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 12/06/08 10:42 PM
|Prof. Placher was an excellent scholar, an inspiring educator, and a truly wonderful human being. It is an honor to have been his student and a pleasure to have known him.|
posted by Matthew McMullen '02 (email@example.com) on 12/06/08 07:46 PM
|One hesitates to join this chorus of alums and students, but since I am through Bill Placher's influence, an alum honora causis, I want you all to know how much he contributed to the Church world beyond the campus. In 1976-77 Bill was an elder at the Church in Crawfordsville, and along with Eric Dean an often member of the Presbytery of Wabash Valley, the northwestern third of the state of Indiana. There were then 113 churches and over 40000 members, and we asked be to sit in on our meetings and then offer his theological reflections. he did it superbly. We found that we had been arguing major theological issues in the midst of our mundane haggling. We printed them in our newsletter, and it went abroad widely, one national figure said the best theology in the church was being done then in northern indiana. So when in l983 the two strands of our Presbyterian Church united, a new confession was ordered. I recommended to the man who was to appoint the team, Bill Placer, whom he knew nothing of at that time. Bill was chosen, and was probably the youngest on the committee. After a year of study and false attempts, in frustration, the committee took all its drafts and all its paper, shoved them in front of Placher and said, you write it. Of the whole group he was the most trusted and respected and the one who came to the room with no pre-concieved agenda or special pleading. And write it he did. It was perfect. Of course the proces to get it approved meant that some stuff snuck in that made it less clear than Bill's original, but the essence is still his and is still our primary confession.
Many times in the decades since Bill has called and wanted to talk about the many invitations to major theological seminaries to teach. After reflection and prayer, he always turned back to his original call, Wabash, knowing that he there could have the freedom of inquiry, the sharp and fresh intellects, and the chance to make a strong and positive impacts on good minds, which he did so well. We all will miss him, but we will always be grateful to his God for Bill's presence with us through the last four decades. The Auden quote in his commencement address could well be the epitath for his life.|
posted by Charles A. Hammond (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 12/05/08 06:17 PM
|Of all the words that have been used to describe Mr Placher (which I called him until I was 30 years old), it is "honesty" which seems best to encapsulate his character. His was not a harsh, rigid honesty; neither was it cloying nor Pollyana-like. Bill's honesty was deep-seated, informed and alive. It sprang from a truth which formed his Faith and from which in turn he helpd form his students and friends. This honesty was always tempered by his marvelous sense of humor. Several years ago, after a Monon Bell game, I saw him and joked that as I had just purchased several of his books, perhaps he might be willing to go back and change some of my grades. His reply, "I think I was more than generous the first time" made me love him all the more. The mood of the college is darker now, as all of us reflect on on the serious and sad events come to pass recently. What a tribute to Bill Placher it will be, when we all can in honesty examine our common life and upon reflection of that "undying loyalty" come to a deeper understanding and love of "our conselor in college days" and "guide in riper years".
"God grant thy benediction", Mr Placher.|
posted by Carl Michaelis'79 (email@example.com) on 12/05/08 04:13 PM
|In the 12th chapter of his first letter to the church at Corinth, Paul writes about varieties of gifts and services. Bill Placher had gifts to teach, preach, discern and communicate the rich blessings of a triune God, whom Bill acknowledged as the Giver of Gifts. Bill offered his service as “the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good,” especially to the Presbyterian Church (USA), Wabash College, and to all who knew him. As Christian, professor, writer, friend and preacher, Bill Placher bore the Spirit’s fruit of love, joy, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control of which Paul wrote in Galatians 5:22-23.
Bill’s unexpected death leaves an enormous void for those who knew him. Yet, coming as it did at the start of this Advent season, serves to remind me of the hope God has for a world into which God would send messengers like Bill Placher.|
posted by Alan Willadsen, CPA, '82 (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 12/04/08 10:50 AM
|Bill Placher was a student in the very first college class that I ever taught, and it goes without saying that he was one of the most gifted (two others in that class were David Blix and Garrett Paul). In later years, I proudly used his published work as texts for other courses that I taught. But I remember him most for his lively, self-deprecating wit and his sharp insight regarding his fellow humans. His passing is a heavy blow to generations of students, colleagues, and friends at Wabash and beyond. His having lived among us is cause for celebration.|
posted by Bill Barnett, '64 (email@example.com) on 12/03/08 11:45 PM
|At this moment of the great loss of Dr. Placher, it is perhaps appropriate to be silent, as that seems to be the apprpriate response to the passing of such a wonderful man, teacher, colleague, and friend. I am indeed at a loss for words, but I share a few thoughts as I grieve the passing of Dr. Placher. I knew Dr. Placher while teaching at Wabash for two years. From the moment I went to teh college for an interview till the day I left, I found him to be extremely gentle and full of life. I remember his joyful laughter, his simplicity, his faith and generosity of spirit. The ease with which he interacted with people made me feel welcome from the first day. It is hard to believe that Dr. Placher is gone. We will miss you dearly, Dr. Placher.|
posted by kenneth n. ngwa (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 12/03/08 10:40 PM
|When I was a freshman I was told by an upperclassmen to "Take a class with Placher." Not only did I take one but I took three before I graduated. He did more than teach authors and philosophers on religion. I always felt like I was in bible study with Dr. Placher. Since my graduation I've read "Narratives of a Vulnerable God." He proved you could pen your passion and still be an academic. Like most who've posted, Dr. Placher influenced my life. His ideals on Christ have influenced my preaching in great ways. I am greatful for having him as a professor and knowing him as a person. He will be missed.|
posted by Dante Pryor (email@example.com) on 12/03/08 07:18 PM
|Dr. Placher was the most gracious and affective teacher I ever had. One night during my second semester senior year, I sat across from him at a faculty dinner. He started the night by saying, "Todd, I guess decorum will prevent me from asking about that paper that is a week over due." He never mentioned it again, and we had a very pleasant dinner. As soon as he left the house, I ran to the house computer, stayed up all night and slipped the paper under his door to the sounds of birds chirping as the sun came up. His grace and stature lent all the weight in the world to a simple declarative sentence. No one else could teach lessons like that.|
posted by Todd Gross '93 (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 12/03/08 07:13 PM
|About 14 years ago, I was floundering in my career choice, trying to decide between academics and industry (it was a difficult time for me altogether). I believe it was Bill who recommended a book to me. It was about a year in the life of Kenyon College, and Bill thought it captured the good, the bad, and the ugly of small colleges. I read this book (Alma Mater: A College Homecoming), and it helped me decide to go into academics. Thank you, Bill, for helping me when I was a little bit lost. Chris Halkides, Class of 1983|
posted by Chris Halkides (email@example.com) on 12/03/08 06:14 PM
|Having known Bill when he was an independant living in Martindale Hall, he was not only one of the academic giants at that time but he continued to grow as a "Wabash Little Giant" his contributions were many and his friendship missed.|
posted by Keith O. Nelson (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 12/03/08 04:53 PM
|Bill was a remarkable man, a gifted teacher, and a wonderful person. His untimely passing is a great loss. Wabash was blessed to have had Bill for so many years. We will miss him. God bless you Bill. You were indeed one of his finest creations.|
posted by Skip Long '71 (email@example.com) on 12/03/08 03:22 PM
|More than anybody I've known, Bill Placher lived simply and purely in service to the Gospel. From that simplicity and purity came his knowledge, humor, humanity--and the ability to communicate it all without insult or arrogance. Like many who've commented here, I used to devise ways to hang out in his office to soak up just a bit more wisdom. I will miss him.|
posted by Jeff Marlett (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 12/03/08 03:07 PM
|Bill and I were friends for more than 40 years. He was a highly gifted and truly decent man, and I will miss him forever. I would not be surprised to learn that somewhere out there one of Bill's former students is pursuing a Ph.D., waiting to return to Wabash, as Bill did, to pick up where Bill left off. Bill would like that (if he hasn't already seen to it).|
posted by Steve Bowen '68 (email@example.com) on 12/03/08 11:50 AM
|"Narratives of a Vulnerable God" has had a profound effect on my life. Tonight I raise a glass of Laphroaig to my mentor and friend.
I've often argued that what makes Wabash a special place is not it's all-male status, but rather the amazing relationships between students and faculty. I thought of Bill every time I advanced this claim.|
posted by Adam Kirtley (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 12/03/08 11:50 AM
|Bill: You are "some Little Giant." We will miss you in all the many ways which have been articulated so well in these messages. Our Community has been -- and will be -- enriched by your embrace. Godspeed.|
posted by Mark Dewart '74 (email@example.com) on 12/03/08 11:05 AM
|Bill and I arrived at Wabash together; he as a student and I as a new faculty member. It was my good fortune to have Bill as a student in general biology lab where we became well acquainted. Having Bill as a student was a fine introduction to teaching since he was an outstanding student who always asked the challenging question. Despite my frequent suggestions, I could not convince him to consider a bio major. Even as a freshman Bill asked the right questions at the right time, a trait I remember him best for after he joined the faculty and became a trusted friend, talented teacher and wonderful colleague. He will certainly be missed, but never forgotten by his students, his classmates, his faculty colleagues, his church friends and the many theologians throughout the country who so valued his scholarship.|
posted by Austin Brooks (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 12/03/08 10:30 AM
|A classmate and I once remarked to each other that we never saw Dr. Placher put gas in his car, and concluded that he must have simply willed it to run by the sheer force of his mind. On intellect alone, he would have had our respect and admiration. But Wabash men didn’t only respect him — we loved him for his impish wit and gentle demeanor. In one Monon Bell Chapel, Dr. Placher drew gasps for conceding that Wabash and DePauw really weren’t all that different. He then noted that most graduates of both schools couldn’t read their own diplomas, and a few knowing chuckles rolled across the room. When he cinched the joke, saying with the signature twinkle in his eye, “Of course, ours are in Latin and theirs are in English,” the Chapel nearly burst with roars of delight. It was that combination of intellect and humanity that made him such a vital part of the College’s lifeblood, and an archetype of its mission to teach men “to think critically, act responsibly, lead effectively, and live humanely.” He was taken from us too soon, but lives on — in our memories, yes; but more importantly, through the Resurrection in which he placed his faith. He was, indeed, some Little Giant.|
posted by Jason W. Bennett '98 (email@example.com) on 12/03/08 09:21 AM
|I still have the letter Bill Placher sent to me in the summer of 1992 introducing himself as my freshman advisor. I remember my parents and I taking turns reading that letter and my mother saying "I know this much, this guy's going to look out for you". It was then that I realized that just how much Wabash cared about his students and for me, Bill personified that caring nature.
I find peace knowing he will continue to look out for me and countless others from above.|
posted by Chip Timmons (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 12/02/08 11:19 PM
|When I arrived on campus in the fall of '75 Bill had already acquired the reputation of being the 'boy wonder' of the college faculty. During my 4 years at Wabash he was my faculty advisor, teacher and friend. His influence on my life during and since those college days has been profound. Through Bill I learned much of the transcendence and the mercy of the triune God. Over twenty years after graduating I had the pleasure of seeing my son Peter (Wabash '06) learn from this master teacher and benefit from his gentle wisdom. That was an even greater blessing. Bill, I shared with you on several occasions what you had done for me, but as you wrote, "when we best articulate our ideas, we cannot escape the feeling that there was something there we never quite captured." Rest in God's peace, friend, knowing that you are loved and very much missed.|
posted by Emerson Joslyn ' 79 (email@example.com) on 12/02/08 07:23 PM
|may Bill find repose where the saints and angels are.|
posted by bob ivancevich (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 12/02/08 07:18 PM
|Bill Placher, even in his day-to-day mundanities, was one the most persuasive arguments for Christianity I have ever known.
The speed with which he would have declined such praise serves only as further testament.|
posted by Kyle Cassidy '08 (email@example.com) on 12/02/08 06:48 PM
|Such a kind-hearted soul yet filled with great wit, passion, and fire. He set such a high bar for tolerance, graciousness, and leadership - this world is a colder place with him not it in it. But my hope is that his gifts will carry on in all of us who knew and appreciated him. One of my fondest memories was of Placher, Blix, my parents, and several of their friends celebrating after a concert I gave at the college nearly ten years ago. The repartee and the effervescence in that room were something to behold - Placher, Blix, and my mother were a joyous, pixie-ish trio! We will miss you, Bill!|
posted by Roy Sexton '95 (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 12/02/08 06:12 PM
|Adieu, Professor Placher. I will miss you.|
posted by Keith Bickley '90 (email@example.com) on 12/02/08 06:10 PM
|I am both saddened and shocked to learn of Dr. Placher's death. I remember him as a young professor when I began at Wabash in 1976. He taught the Images of Jesus class and I had him in freshman seminar. I was always taken by his grasp of the subject matter, his humanity and his innate curiosity. I never doubted his commitment to teaching or his religiosity; both were demonstrated by his scholarship, confidence, conviction and faith. After, graduating, I saw Dr. Placher a few times when visiting the campus. He was one of the best things about my Wabash experience. He is truly missed.
Dell Hendon ‘80|
posted by Dell Hendon Class of 1980 (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 12/02/08 05:47 PM
|All of us have significant memories of Bill, but there are also many small things that will unexpectedly pop into mind in the years to come: the way he cocked his head when contemplating a new idea, his distinctive laugh, the mischievous twinkle in his eyes right before adding new insight or humor to a conversation. Bill was a teacher’s teacher. All Wabash faculty learned from his ability to be simultaneously gentle and challenging. It has been an honor knowing him.|
posted by Robert Foote (email@example.com) on 12/02/08 03:47 PM
|We have lost the finest of individuals in Bill Placher. When I first arrived at Wabash in 1976 I was introduced to Bill. I could not believe this young fellow was a professor. Over the years getting to know him became more and more enjoyable. I served on several committees with him and his insight and thoughtfulness in his committee work was outstanding. My most joyous moment was being asked to be a reader for the Christmas program directed by Bill. I was humbled that this man of such brilliance would ask a basketball coach to do a reading in his program. I will miss this unpretentious person greatly.|
posted by Mac Petty (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 12/02/08 02:35 PM
|I met Bill Placher in July 1978 when I interviewed for a job at Wabash College -- along with two other faculty members, he took me to lunch. From that meeting until our most recent correspondence -- and especially during my 29 years on the Wabash faculty -- Bill was never anything less than a true friend and colleague. He was generous in his spirit and fair in all of his dealings. I especially appreciated his unfailing support of students, including his attendance at virtually every play produced by Wabash theatre. I always looked forward to his response to any play I directed -- and on other cultural events on campus. Whether he liked a performance or not, he always expressed his thoughts in a kind and constructive manner. His loss to Wabash is incalculable -- and although no one, finally, is indispensable, Bill's loss will sorely test that idea. My sympathies to one and all associated with Wabash on this great loss.|
posted by James Fisher (email@example.com) on 12/02/08 11:34 AM
|I appreciated Bill's willingness to share his knowledge and love of God with us Presbyterians. We will miss Bill very much for his cooperative efforts and his love for the church of Jesus Christ.|
posted by David Smook (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 12/02/08 09:48 AM
|Bill Placher, David Blix and I were students together in several religion courses in the late 60s and early 70s with Eric Dean, Ray Williams, Hall Peebles, David Greene and Bill Barnett. The conversations we had in and out of class in those days were as good as any I had in graduate school or ever since, for that matter. Wabash was like a little graduate school of religion in those days. Many contemporary theological debates would be recognizable in the arguments that took place on the second and third floors of Center Hall and around campus in those days. Bill's brilliance and uncompromising excellence were unmistakable. That doesn't mean he always convinced me, but he always had the better arguments. (Sorry Bill, but I still think the religious a priori is defensible.)
Those memories are fresher and more precious today. Now I have lost a good friend and a challenging conversation partner; the narrative theology movement has lost by far its best representative; and Wabash has lost one of her greatest sons. I am not surprised to read from students that Bill was a great professor. But to me he was an spirited fellow student who never settled for anything but the best, in true Wabash style. And if anyone is at rest in God's hands (even the postliberal God's hands), it is Bill.|
posted by Garrett Paul '71 (email@example.com) on 12/02/08 09:32 AM
|I cannot write much beyond what others have said. I owe Dr. Placher my understanding of grace justification as well as my appreciation for the Socratic method. My favorite Placher moment occurred many times in the handful of classes I took with him. A student would say something quite wrong, but so earnestly presented, that he couldn't bring himself to correct the student outright. Instead, he would say "well, there is that...", and then move the discussion back on track without embarrasing the student. He was a joy to learn from.|
posted by Adam Packer '00 (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 12/02/08 08:26 AM
|I read of a man who stood to speak
at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on his tombstone
from the beginning...to the end.
He noted that first came the date of his birth
and spoke of the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all
was the dash between those years.
For that dash represents all the time
that he spent alive on earth...
and now only those who loved him
know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not, how much we own;
the cars....the house...the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
and how we spend our dash.
So think about this long and hard...
are there things you'd like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
that can still be rearranged.
If we could just slow down enough
to consider what's true and real,
and always try to understand
the way other people feel.
And be less quick to anger,
and show appreciation more
and love the people in our lives
like we've never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect,
and more often wear a smile...
remembering that this special dash
might only last a little while.
So, when your eulogy is being read
with your life's actions to rehash...
would you be proud of the things they
say about how you spend your dash?
I take comfort
that Wabash's loss is heaven's gain. Peace be with you Bill.|
posted by Steve Richardson '78 (email@example.com) on 12/02/08 06:28 AM
|I’ve always hated the word “Professor.” As job titles go, ‘one who professes’ seems exceptionally vague, empty, and, when the job itself is considered, arrogant. It conjures up images of an old man standing in front of a group and articulating beliefs to a captive audience. Although I always called Bill Placher ‘Professor,’ in my experience, he was anything but. As anyone can attest, Bill never spoke at you. Never asked you to passively listen to his ideas about anything. Although he was a consummate scholar and prolific author, the very idea of him standing behind a podium and lecturing at length seems comical to me.
In the Theological Ethics class I took my freshman year, Dr. Placher sat in the same chairs, at the same table, as the rest of the class. During the semester, we read tough books. Neibuhr, Hauerwas, catechisms written by Popes, articles on religious justifications for war. And we were young men; I’m sure none of us was even as smart as Bill was when he was our age, much less able to hold a candle to his accumulated wisdom at that time. So it seemed an obvious place for long lectures and in-depth, guided textual analysis. And yet, he rarely spoke for more than 10 minutes each class. He’d introduce the topics for the day, toss out a single question, and sit back with that smirk that said “I the best job in the world.” And then he’d listen as 19 year-olds from small towns in the Midwest started to fumble their way around issues that had divided intellectuals, theologians, congregations, denominations. Every now and then, he’d jump in to re-direct the discussion with a new question or to re-articulate a student’s weakly-developed contribution, making you seem 10x as smart as you had appeared moments before. He was so deft at keeping us enthused, on topic, and somehow always making progress in our own understanding. It seemed so effortless.
Outside of class, he was the epitome of an invested mentor. His office door was constantly open. He was never too busy to stop on the brick paths crisscrossing the mall in order to speak with you about the book you were reading, the poem you’d written for class, or the color of the leaves. It was all important to him. I was an actor, and he never missed any of my shows. My senior year I took on a particularly difficult role, and before opening night I was a mess of nervous energy. While pacing backstage prior to the opening, I heard Bill’s laugh drift through the curtains. Just his laugh. And a weight fell from my shoulders. I knew he was there because he wanted to support me. This man, whose intellect, pedagogy and kindness, I so deeply admired, had come into campus on a Wednesday night because he wanted to support me in an endeavor far outside of his own field. I knew, even if I fell flat on my face in front of the crowd, he’d still be there smiling at the end of the show, offering words of encouragement.
You see, Bill Placher wasn’t a Professor in my life or in the life of Wabash College. Bill Placher was a presence. A brilliant, caring, selfless, passionate presence. And now he’s (I can’t write it…) Now, he’s an absence.
But not really. You see, everyone who met and interacted with Bill carries him with them. There are even men and women who never saw the man, but who read and still carry his words. We, the men and women of Wabash College, were fortunate enough to call him ‘ours’ (our colleague, our professor, our classmate, our friend) for over 40 years. Now he’s been reclaimed by One who knew him long before we did. Tonight, through tears I cannot stop, I thank God for all the moments he could bear lending Bill Placher to us.|
posted by Wesley Jacks '06 (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 12/02/08 03:00 AM
|I heard about Professor William C. Placher's death about an hour ago here on Facebook, of all places. On that site, he has two fan clubs. I don't think any other professor at Wabash has two Facebook fan clubs, let alone a Facebook page. That is one snapshot of Dr. Placher's ability to relate to his students.
Another snapshot of Placher's ability to practice relational pedagogy was his habit of holding at least one class a semester from his home. Students always enjoyed home cooking and quality beverages from his kitchen.
Also, I will remember Placher's odd, infectious laugh. His laugh could make others laugh just by hearing it's loud, nerdy cackle.
Another source of humor was his comb-over. We always marveled at how such a brilliant man could sport one of the dumbest hairstyles on the planet. I guess the laugh and the comb-over helped Placher complete his humble persona and mask his impressive curriculum vitae.
Putting aside all superficial things, I think I learned more about Christian theology from Dr. Placher's books and courses than any person I've yet to encounter (apologies to Luke Timothy Johnson, Scott Hahn, and AJ Levine). His course on contemporary theology and St. Thomas Aquinas have continued to serve me 4 years after graduation and five months into my job as a youth minister.
Dr. Placher's death puts an awkward semi-colon on a difficult semester for the college. After his passing and Johnny Smith's passing, Wabash will no longer be the same place. The college's spirit and feeling have seemingly been replaced by a regime without any semblance of humility, thoughtfulness, or ability to relate to students. All three qualities were touchstones of Professor William Placher and they will be missed at Wabash. The heartland has lost a piece of its heart tonight.|
posted by Troy Stemen (email@example.com) on 12/02/08 02:20 AM
|I have had the privilege of reading his work, A History of Christian Theology. I wish I could have taken a class in which he taught. My prayers are with his family and friends. Though I never knew you personally, it was an honor to read your work.|
posted by Juan Luna (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 12/02/08 12:30 AM
|I will miss Bill as a very real Wabash connection. His 1970 commencement address is even more poignant today than it was 38 years ago. To Bill's credit his message is timeless. I am thankful to have known Bill Placher.|
posted by Bob Pollom (email@example.com) on 12/01/08 11:13 PM
|My junior year I found myself needing a certain credit for my religion major, the only class I could take that wouldn't interfere with my music major was an independent study. I'd not had a class with Placher yet, and was told upon choosing religion as a major that I simply had to. I went to his office and as he began to speak to me and ask me questions as to what it was I wanted to study, I knew my life was about to change. We settled on mysticism and he assigned the Hymn of the Pearl from the Gospel of Thomas for me to read. I read it and began writing things that came to me. He asked me to read several things about the Gnostics and every time I read something, I found myself writing. About halfway through the semester, Placher asked me how I was going to write my paper.. I hadn't the slightest idea, but I then discovered that I'd been writing my paper all along and from that moment on our discussions upon the history of mysticism turned into discussions about the things I'd come to write. He never directly asked me to consider why I am here, and what I can do to help the world, but the discussions we had never let those questions leave me . Professor Placher taught me that I may not be able to change the whole world, but if we listen with love, we can help whomever we are blessed to come to know.|
posted by Sean Foster (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 12/01/08 10:25 PM
|While I never had a real class with Prof. Placher, I did have the honor of having him teach a section of my Senior Colloquium class as well as the many other lectures of his that I attended while at Wabash. During my visits to campus following graduation, he also welcomed me into his office to talk to him about my life and graduate school. He was a true embodiment of scholarship, leadership and dedication to the betterment of mankind like other Wabash Men before him. He will truly be missed.|
posted by Michael Foster '01 (email@example.com) on 12/01/08 10:14 PM
|I cannot imagine a better human being to influence another than Dr. Placher. I will never forget the challenges he posed and his lesson to never stop seeking, though you may never find the full answer. He is missed...|
posted by Ian Bisbee (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 12/01/08 08:44 PM
|Indeed, Wabash College has suffered a great loss. Bill Placher was a wonderful teacher. I remember his campus talks and lectures fondly. When I was a visiting professor at Wabash he was a marvelous colleague, offering me support and advice when asked. Prof. Placher was the Kilian McDonnell Writer-In-Residence here at St. John's University, where I am a professor. He and I had a few “Wabash association of St. John’s meetings.” I was delighted to have been able to reconnect with him this semester. I, like everyone at Wabash, was shocked by the news of his death. I am honored to have known Bill Placher and I am a better person for it.|
posted by Richard Ice ('83) (email@example.com) on 12/01/08 08:40 PM
|There is not much else I can say that others have already said. Dr. Bill Placher was an incredibly generous Wabash man not only with his teachings and time, but with his willingness to lead and mentor his students. I spent many hours in his office speaking about our views, papers, and most importantly life. He will be sorely missed and will be long remembered in the hearts of all of those he touched.
Wabash has lost a true friend, Professor, and Wabash Son.
Forever we will miss you.|
posted by Nick Rico '06 (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 12/01/08 07:22 PM
|Dr. Placher was one of the most amazing educators and Wabash Men ever.
As a Religion major I was blessed to have a minor in Dr. Placher. I attended wine and cheese receptions at his home. He sat on my Oral Comprehensive panel.
Placher was always in his student's corner and he treated everyone as his equal.
I saw Dr. Placher in June. He looked the same as he did when I was a student at Wabash. We sat together at dinner at the "Big Bash 2008." It was my 15-Year Reunion, but it was like I had never left. He quizzed me about Jewish topics he was thinking about and wanted to know what I had been reading. He also remembered many details of my own time at Wabash. Though involved on campus, I hadn't been a student of his in more than 15 years!
I will miss Dr. Placher on campus. I always happened to bump into him on campus and it always added to the richness of my visits. The campus mourns a great man. So do I.|
posted by David Waldman '93 (email@example.com) on 12/01/08 06:45 PM
|I was so sorry to learn of Bill's passing. Back in 1976, when I joined the Wabash faculty. we found we had a number of mutual friends in Peoria, and that brought us into a lot of conversations, which later spread onto other topics. It was always a delight to see his eyes twinkle when we got off onto things remote from Peoria, Religion, and German. In 1981, Bill gave a Founders' Day address in which he commented on Wabash and its people, and said: "...we do manage to be a family of sorts. We share our joys and sorrows, we tend our sick, we bury our dead. Sometimes it even takes a death to drive certain realizations home. One discovers that a life spent teaching at this college, even when cut short,doesn't seem wasted but a good life. When it is the life of a good man, what higher tribute could one pay an institution than that ?" You have paid Wabash your tribute, Bill. Ruhe in Frieden!|
posted by Charles Wright (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 12/01/08 05:16 PM
|Dr. Bill Placher was one of my favorite Professors! I studied Plato with him. I think I should get a copy of Plato's dialogues and read them out loud to my daughters. I have imagined doing this several times and feel that it would be a lovely exercise for honoring Dr. Placher. I still recall the look on his face after he polled the class about which of Plato's character's version of "love" seemed the most compelling. The winning notion was that a woman was the complimentary and completing aspect of the man. Dr. placher raised his shoulders, tilted his head and said "It could be." We all knew he was a bachelor and honest scholar. I feel that his teaching a scholarship were very fulfilling for him. He as certainly a deeply valuable person.
I will have to look up more of his books. It would be good to read them. I am mortified by his loss and will certainly make effort to attend his funeral if it is anywhere nearby.
posted by Denis Kelly '84 (email@example.com) on 12/01/08 05:08 PM
|I was a classmate of Bill's but did not know him well other than by his excellent academic reputation. I recall his commencement address not only for its insight into the world of that day but also for its impact on my father. I have revisited it on several occasions just to catch a glimpse into the brilliant mind of a young man mature beyond his years. Wabash has indeed lost a Giant.|
posted by Mike Gregory '70 (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 12/01/08 04:50 PM
|I smile when I think of Prof. Bill Placher. He had a pleasant demeanour. I really
enjoyed seeing and talking with him. Bill was very supportive of students involved in athletics, Glee Club, plays and other activities outside the classroom. Bill was one of those individuals who made the
Wabash experience a great one.|
posted by Rob Johnson(coach '77H) (email@example.com) on 12/01/08 04:45 PM
|He once asked me a very important question in a deceptively harmless way. I could find nothing coherent to say, but fumbled at it anyway, against his grinning. It is a memory, and a question, that I often revisit. I still don't have an intelligent answer for him, but hope to, eventually.|
posted by Paul Boger '87 (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 12/01/08 04:42 PM
|Humility and impact are the two words that come to mind when I think of Bill Placher. He will continue to have an incredible influence on my life and the lives of many, despite his passing. We count ourselves as blessed to have known someone who lived and wrote so graciously. I recall his trip to speak a year or two ago at the AAR-South in Nashville. When he was done speaking, instead of schmoozing with other great heads of religion, he wanted to enjoy a night out with the Wabash men in town. He put his students and his alumni first, and that is why he is loved so dearly. When I think of the Wabash man I long to become, he will always be the first to come to mind.|
posted by Philip W. Eubanks '06 (email@example.com) on 12/01/08 04:40 PM
|Dr. Placher gave me the kick in the pants I needed to get back on track at Wabash. His friendship has meant more to the Ristine family than he could ever know. His place among the great educators at Wabash College was assured long ago, along with his place in our hearts.|
posted by Dan Ristine (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 12/01/08 04:35 PM
|Dr. Placher was everything you ever could seek in a professor: he was brilliant, graceful, patient, and KIND. He had an unparalleled ability to boil down the most complex of issues into simple, accessible pieces. His classroom demeanor was provocative without being brash: he created a positive, safe, constructive environment in which to share opinions and perspectives. Indeed, he was one of the college's most prolific writers, one of its finest teachers, yet he always had time for his students. And undoubtedly that's how he'll be remembered: he was as passionate about his own understanding as he was of ours. RIPBCP.|
posted by Stephen Dewart '06 (email@example.com) on 12/01/08 04:32 PM
|Dr. Placher was such an easy person to talk to. He wasn't my assigned advisor, but I sought out his advice often. I thank God to this day that he was on my senior oral exam panel or I would have just frozen up. I've dropped in on him a few times over the decades since and I always enjoyed catching up. He is gone too soon.|
posted by Doug Wagner '79 (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 12/01/08 04:23 PM
|A 'chance' encounter with Dr. Placher on the quad of the University of Chicago led me to apply to Seminary, and his books are a constant pastoral companion.
"Eternal rest grant to him, O Lord; and let light perpetual shine upon him."|
posted by The Rev'd. Ryan Mills (email@example.com) on 12/01/08 03:54 PM
|Dr. Placher and I connected my freshman year when we realized we were both from the Peoria area originally, having many of the same characteristics that drew a young man to study religion and the rest of the liberal arts at a small, all-male school in small town Indiana. When I wasn't taking courses with him at the helm, we'd still chat and try to keep up with our changing hometown, campus events or elementary theology (I couldn't keep up with him at the higher levels). I can't help but think that, if he were here beside me now, he'd point to 1 Thessalonians Chapter 4 and remind me not to weep like those who have no hope. Then, in true Dr. Placher form, he'd add, "Okay, maybe weep a little, but you get the point." I'm certain he has found his rest in peace and will be anxious to inform his former pupils of what he discovers there upon their arrival.
Having passed from man to legend, let these tales here raise him up into the Wabash mythos with the greats before him.|
posted by Andrew McGlothlen '05 (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 12/01/08 03:18 PM
|Bill and I discovered we both loved Denise Levertov, and I told him about this poem, because it reminded me of him. (Ever humble, Bill said he this poem didn't describe him at all, and that he wsa partial to "Conversion of Brother Lawrence")
Once I understood (till I forget, at least)
the immediacy of new life, Vita Nuova,
redemption not stuck in linear delays,
I perceived also (for now) the source
of unconscious light in faces
I believe are holy, not quite transparent,
more like the half-opaque whiteness
of Japanese screens or lampshades,
grass or petals imbedded in that paper-thin
substance which is not paper as this is paper,
and which permits the passage of what is luminous
though forms remain unseen behind its protection.
I perceived that in such faces, through
the translucence we see, the light we intuit
is of the already resurrected, each
a Lazarus, but a Lazarus (man or woman)
without the memory of the tomb or of any
swaddling bands except perhaps
the comforting ones of their first
infant hours, the warm receiving-blanket...
They know of themselves nothing different
from anyone else. This great unknowing
is part of their holiness. They are always trying
to share out joy as if it were cake or water,
something ordinary, not rare at all.
Bill, you were translucent, and the only thing that surpassed your brilliance was your goodness. Thank you for consistently sharing out the joy in all that you did. You will be missed, but there is comfort in knowing that your joy is now made complete.|
posted by Gina Tollini (email@example.com) on 12/01/08 02:50 PM
|I once asked Bill to sign one of his books for me and his inscription began -- "To my first editor -- and perhaps my toughest one ---" He was talking about the time during our senior year in 1970 when he wrote for our underground journal THE SATYR. Bill's writing then was as eloquent, fair, scholarly, and humorous as so much of his much-more-famous writing in the decades since, but perhaps it was a tad more irreverent then.
I find it almost impossible to think of a modern Wabash College without Bill Placher there as its heart and conscience. Bill was one of those upright pegs that holds down the world in even the strongest winds of change or controversy or confusion.
I thought in 1970 that Bill's commencement address was the finest and most appropriate to context talk I'd ever heard, and I think the same today, more than 38 years later. Bill was my friend, but one whom I was always certain I would someday have the proper amount of time to talk with for the hours and days and weeks of rich conversation our long but largely potential friendship deserved. One should know better, especially at our age, to imagine such earthly paradises deferred. Carpe diem and carpe it damned fast or mourn the loss of such a time forever. I shall so mourn . . . but I shall also treasure those few great conversations and moments Bill and I did have between graduation and this sad day.
Wabash College will be mourning the loss of Bill Placher for generations. There are worse legacies than the love and honor flowing from so many fine men and women. Even our anger at his leaving us without a final conversation does him honor. Bill was an extraordinarily fine writer and scholar but was, rare even (especially?) for fine writers, an even greater success at being a full, fine, generous, and intellectually honest human being.
My sympathies and deepest condolences go now to those closest to Bill, to the College which he honored with his work and presence, to the students who benefited from his teaching and to those who now will never get the chance to learn from him, and to all of us whose lives were enriched through the knowing of this exceptional scholar, this fine man, this wonderful friend.|
posted by Dan Simmons ('70) (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 12/01/08 02:49 PM
|I never had the opportunity to take a full course with Dr. Placher, but I was lucky enough to attend several of his lectures. However, the memory I would like to share was the time that I asked him to come to our fraternity house and give a lecture to our freshmen pledges describing the aspects of a strong writer to these students. Dr. Placher took time out of his schedule, came to our house at 7:30 in the evening, provided hand-outs for the freshmen, and stayed until every question had been answered. He easily could have held the lecture at his own leisure, simply given me a hand-out to copy and give them, or simply said "I'm sorry, I'm just too busy right now." Instead, Dr. Placher believed that his duties as a professor extended outside of the classroom to all Wabash students. In the years since I have graduated, I have always told prospective students that Dr. Placher is a major reason to attend Wabash College. He will be very missed. Dr. Placher, some Little Giant.|
posted by Charlie Shrode (email@example.com) on 12/01/08 02:33 PM
|The true light that helped illuminate my journey, both as student and co-worker, now shines down from the heavens. . . Thanks for all you were and shall remain for so many of us, Bill. Heaven's gain is undeniably Wabash's tragic, tragic loss.|
posted by Dudley Miller '78 (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 12/01/08 01:41 PM
|Father Time is not always a hard parent, and, though he tarries for none of his children, often lays his hand lightly upon those who have used him well; making them old men and women inexorably enough, but leaving their hearts and spirits young and in full vigor. With such people the grey head is but the impression of the old fellow's hand in giving them his blessing, and every wrinkle but a notch in the quiet calendar of a well-spent life.
The good Lord is certainly smiling on you today as you enjoy His blessings for all of eternity for all the good work you accomplished during your short stay here singing His praises and touching countless lives around the world. Mine is one of many thanks.|
posted by David Horvath (email@example.com) on 12/01/08 01:40 PM
|Dear Dr. Placher,
I heard today of your passing but I wanted to take a chance to say goodbye and thank you. I am sure that you are enjoying your much deserved reward for a lifetime of inspiration and good will you extended to those around you. I am one of the fortunate persons who had the opportunity to share in your life and learn from you. I took three classes with you and I still count the books we explored as some of my all time favorites. Thank you for spending so much of your after class time with me as I explored my own views on philosophy and religon. Thank you for listening and challenging me to become clearer and sharper in my thinking. I know that I am not alone in my sentiments for you and I am sure you will receive many cheers and praises as we celebrate your life and works. I pray that you left in peace and truly reap what you sewn and live on eternally while looking down on us from above. Thank you for your life and you will be missed by me and all those who had the pleasure of knowing you.
Class of 2003|
posted by Joshua Wilson (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 12/01/08 01:27 PM
|Bill was both a former student (one of my most formidable) and a fomer colleague. He had one of the best minds and clearest visions of all sides of any issue I have ever encountered. He will be missed by all of us.|
posted by John Fischer (email@example.com) on 12/01/08 01:23 PM
|Dr. Placher helped shape my ability to think critically and has been formational in my faith development. He has continued to take an interest in my development as an Alumnus as we shared dinner on my yearly treks back to the College. I am sure that he has joined the fellowship of the Saints in the land of light an joy. I will miss him.|
posted by Jim Riddle '86 (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 12/01/08 12:57 PM
|Words cannot express the profound sadness at the loss of such a wonderful professor and Wabash Man. All I can do is recall his classes and company with fondness, be grateful for the generations of Wabash men he influenced and mentored, and finally, recall the joy at receiving an A- on a paper he graded. A Loyal Son always, he will be truly missed.|
posted by Mark Cevallos '99 (email@example.com) on 12/01/08 12:28 PM
|The summer before my senior year, he invited Joe Trebley '01 and I over to his house for dinner and discussion of some campus issue (the proposed Gender Studies minor, I think). We spent the evening discussing various things for several hours. Joe and I was thrilled to get to talk with him, and we well overstayed our welcome I think. At about midnight, he said, "Gentleman, I appreciate you coming, but I really must get some sleep!" I think we would have stayed forever.
He was a wonderful teacher. God bless him and his family.|
posted by Chris Huffer '00 (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 12/01/08 11:51 AM
|Bill Placher, more than any other figure at Wabash, shaped and continues to shape my life.
In my years as a student, Bill’s examples of patience, humility, and love were teachings as valuable as any I would take from the classroom. Some of my happiest times were spent sitting alongside Bill in Center 214, asking one more question so I could stay in his office just a little longer. And I cannot recall a more content, peaceful feeling during services than what I felt on those Wednesday mornings he preached in the Tuttle Chapel.
Bill encouraged me to travel to Israel, where I would meet my wife. We settled in Washington, D.C., but not before he introduced me to a dozen other Wabash men he had mentored over the years. Today, I sit just down the hall from one of those individuals I met while still a student at Wabash.
I think Bill is the reason I continue to stop and enter the Lincoln Memorial in the middle of a long jog, just to read and recite Lincoln's Second Inaugural. He comes to mind first when I hear Stravinsky, encounter Kafka, or drive across a long bridge.
Like many who will reflect on or write about Bill’s life, I wish I had taken time to share with him my more recent joys and sorrows. And I would love to hear his infectious laugh once more, or listen to him exclaim “Well,” “Hmm,” or “Gee.” The College has lost one of its best, but Bill Placher lives on in all of the students, prisoners, congregants, and friends he has touched.|
posted by Ben Robinson (email@example.com) on 12/01/08 11:39 AM
|This is a sad, sad day in the history of Wabash. At a time when the College needs real leadership maybe the most insightful and influential leader at Wabash has passed on.
Dr. Placher was brilliant and inspiring. I was fortunate to be able to sit in his classes and learn from him. He brought an incredible sense of real understanding and knowledge to the classroom; his presence was unique and required respect. He was the best.
The memory I will always retain about Dr. Placher is that of his speeches and public prayers. His prayers were especially memorable as his words beautifully portrayed Dr. Placher's view towards God while he asked for guidance and resolution on behalf of the Wabash community.
Dr. Placher will forever be missed. May God bless him.|
posted by Gary Paul Moore '04 (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 12/01/08 11:37 AM
|This is John Aden, Assistant Professor of History at Wabash College and graduate of the Class of 1992. A mightier, more gentle an Oak could not have fallen. I will never forget Dr. Placher’s openness to me when I joined the Wabash faculty in 2001, nor the A- he emblazoned on my Philosophical Ethics paper I penned as a Wabash sophomore—one of the toughest grades I’ve ever earned. He taught me how to wrestle with difficult ethical questions, something upon which I draw to this day in my own Wabash classrooms as I, seeking to emulate a master teacher, discuss our planet’s challenges from the vantage of world history with current Wabash men. He taught me immeasurable lessons about how to live and work here, how to stand on principle—but to always allow for exceptions to such tightly held rules, and most importantly how to walk and think and reason—and to express all of those with dignity and knowledge.
I tried to teach my class today, because that is what Dr. Placher (he insisted when I joined the faculty that I call him “Bill”) would have wanted me to do. But I could not do it, and chose to honor his legacy instead. Tears streaming down my face, my voice trembling, I told my students a few of my own experiences with him, and urged them to read of his life's work on our website, thereby beginning to comprehend the significance of the passing of this peaceful, powerful, unassuming soul. I will miss him—one of my many second fathers and mothers who found me, here at Wabash College. He is now in the arms of the Maker about whom he was so compelled to write, publish, preach, and love. Everyone who knew him would want to sit fully engaged, listening intently, as we did in his classes, as those two--the Maker and the “made”—conversed, if ever so briefly, at the Pearly Gate. As for we who remain, we are heartened by his rich legacy, even as our knees buckle more deeply than before. Godspeed, Dr. Placher!|
posted by John Aden (email@example.com) on 12/01/08 11:33 AM
|Bill was my first and best mentor and his death is the sort of loss that discloses the preciousness and mysteriousness of life. His talent was rare. Few teachers offer the gifts of the mind in a way that these become gifts of the Spirit also. Fewer still try to do this. But for more than 30 years, Bill did exactly that and transformed lives, shaped minds. I will miss him. I already do.
May he rest in peace and rise in glory.|
posted by Ben Anthony (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 12/01/08 11:03 AM
|I was a student at Wabash in the mid-70s. I was privileged to be a student 4 of Dr. Placher's courses and to actually be his next door neighbor my senior year. But I most recall about Dr. Placher was that in Speech I we studied the commencement speech he delivered as he graduated Wabash College. I was then and remain today amazed that a student's extra-ciricular work (the commencement speech) could be the model for future students in a formal class. He had brilliant mind. But more so he was a lovely person. He was a joy to all who knew him. He will be missed but never forgotten.|
posted by Jim Talley "78 (email@example.com) on 12/01/08 11:01 AM
|I will miss this man so much. I never had a class with him, but I frequented his office to get his wise council throughout college. He helped me decide important life questions while at college and beyond. He allowed me a space to express my faith through his Wednesday Religious Chapels. He was an incredible thinker, writer, and human being. He was my friend. I miss him.|
posted by Jeremy Burton (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 12/01/08 10:51 AM
|I have never had Dr. Placher as a professor, but remember my sophomore year before C&T final he took time out of his nights to hold study sessions in the armory for his class upon requests from students. He not only did this for his class, but invited anyone to join them. This act shows the type of dedication and heart he had for his students. He wanted us to succeed and to achieve to the best of our abilities. Dr. Placher will be missed by all and not because of his great teaching, but because of his heart, character, and dedication to his profession. A great Wabash man has passed away, but many were created due to Dr. Placher's leadership. We thank you and miss you Dr. Placher...|
posted by JT Moore (email@example.com) on 12/01/08 10:50 AM
|I still find inspiration in Dr. Placher's 1970 commencement address. The world has lost a very special human being.|
posted by J. Andrew Woods '86 (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 12/01/08 10:43 AM
|I had always heard about what a great prof Dr. Placher was, but until I took senior seminar I wasn't really able to understand why. He was willing to do anything for students, whether it be quickly looking over a paper or inviting those who stayed on campus over the summer to his house for dinner. He also was a great help at the Wabash Center, and until I got to know him I really didn't understand exactly how much work he does and how much he loved what he did. I'm shocked and saddened, and hope I'm able to be anywhere near the quality of professor he was.|
posted by Greg Longo (email@example.com) on 12/01/08 10:40 AM
|Growing up, I heard stories from my father and my uncle, both Wabash men, about Prof. Placher and his antics and unique ways of teaching. I remember the first class of his that I sat in on, as a visiting junior in high school, and seeing him accidentally cover himself in chalk from the blackboard. As a student of his, I've seen him contort himself in so many funny sitting positions, while he taught me some of the most meaningful lessons of my life. I consider myself blessed to have known and studied under a teacher like Prof. Placher, and I'm only sorry I didn't have the chance to take more classes with him. I can honestly say that there are few things that Wabash could lose that would hurt the college more than the loss of Prof. Placher, both as a faculty member, and more importantly, as a friend and loyal son. We miss you Dr. Placher...|
posted by Luke Robbins (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 12/01/08 10:16 AM