Vic Powell: Legend Dies at 91by Jim Amidon • October 6, 2011
Victor M. Powell — November 25, 1919 — October 6, 2011
George Victor Campbell Morgan Powell, “Vic,” a member of the Wabash College community for nearly 65 years, passed away peacefully in his home on Wednesday. He was 91 years old.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Sunday, October 16 in the Pioneer Chapel on the campus of Wabash College with a reception to follow. Memorial contributions may be made to the Victor and Marion Powell Scholarship Fund at Wabash College.
Powell served Wabash College in virtually every possible way — Professor of Speech, Department Chair, Secretary of the Faculty, Dean of the College, Executive Vice President, and Acting President.
He spoke frequently about his arrival at Wabash as an assistant professor in 1947 and his plans to stay for no more than two years before moving on. He and his wife, Marion, made Wabash and Crawfordsville their home from that point forward, and he served the College continuously until his retirement in 1989. Powell is survived by his wife and two daughters, Carol Lombardi and Karen McCarthy.
“Whatever his role, Vic was always the greatest and most generous of teachers, a man whose love of the College poured out in his affection for his students and his commitment to their promise, a promise that he awoke through every class and every conversation by his kindness, his rigor of thought and language, and his sheer delight in their learning,” said Wabash President Patrick White. “He was one of the greatest of teachers at Wabash, and a consummate teacher of teachers. Anyone who ever had a conversation with Vic learned from him and we all were fortunate to be his students.”
Born November 25, 1919 in Fargo, North Dakota, Powell received his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Minnesota. He served in the United States Air Force during World War II. In 1946, he earned his master’s degree and later his Ph.D. from the University of Missouri.
He received the McLain-McTurnan Excellence in Teaching Award at Wabash in 1974. A year later, the National Association of Wabash Men named Powell an Honorary Alumnus and he was awarded an honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, in 1981.
He was a life-long fan of the St. Louis Cardinals and a regular presence at the faculty round table in the Scarlet Inn, the campus diner.
Powell sat down for an interview just weeks before he turned 90, and told Wabash Magazine editor Steve Charles the secrets to good living: “I was born with a near insatiable appetite for fruits and vegetables,” Powell said. “I never can eat enough of them. I don’t care if I eat meat or not. And I like to walk.”
“Sometimes I get up feeling lethargic—and I do, often enough. But by the time I’ve walked down to the school, picked up the New York Times, and am sitting at the Scarlet Inn with my colleagues around, I’m restored.” Read the whole interview here.
Powell was an active public servant in Crawfordsville, modeling for his students a life of civic engagement. He served on the Crawfordsville City Council and Crawfordsville School Board; presided over the Parks and Recreation Board; served on the Crawfordsville Board of Police Commissioners; and was a long-serving member of the Christian Nursing Service Board and the Montgomery County Comprehensive Health Planning Council, to name only a few of the agencies he served.
At Wabash College, Powell was a powerful campus voice, and he taught generations of students to find their own voices and to communicate with precision and clarity.
Powell taught at Dartmouth in 1946 before he was recruited to Wabash by then-Dean Byron K. Trippet. At the time, Wabash’s speech department was headed by a legendary figure in the field — William Norwood Brigance — and Powell thought working with him would help launch his career.
Powell’s career took off and Wabash’s speech department received national acclaim. But something happened along the way — Powell got hooked on Wabash.
“I came here specifically to stay for two years, but I fell in love with the place and then they would have had to throw me out,” Powell told Wabash Magazine in 1990 after serving as Acting President. “The essential things that I really like about Wabash are still as they were when I came here. There is not great separation of administration and faculty, and a student wouldn’t hesitate to come in to see the president. A general mode of informality has persisted.”
Following Brigance’s death in 1960, Powell became a full professor and chair of the department. He continued in that role until 1973, when President Thad Seymour asked him to succeed Richard Traina as Dean of the College. He served as Dean until he returned to the classroom in 1981. In 1986, he stepped into the role of Executive Vice President to assist President Lewis S. Salter, and in 1989 he served as Acting President of the College.
Powell was a lifetime member of the Methodist Church. He received the Rotary Club’s Paul Harris Fellowship Award for his service to the Crawfordsville community. The Montgomery County Community Foundation honored him for more than five decades of service, and the Christian Nursing Service awarded him its Golden Apple Award for his work at the CNS clinics, Meals on Wheels program, and the FISH clothing closet and food pantry.
Outside of Wabash’s formal classroom setting, Powell was an active teacher. He helped develop and teach in the Wabash Institute for Personal Development; taught classes to employees at R.R. Donnelley; served as a consultant for Eli Lilly and Company’s sales training program; lectured for Indiana University’s summer programs; and chaired the Great Lakes Colleges Association Deans Council.
At the occasion of his 90th birthday, the National Association of Wabash Men paid tribute to Powell, saying in part, “Let this resolution demonstrate the gratitude all Wabash men — and particularly this Board — for his lifetime contributions to the College and for his personal friendship to generations of Little Giants."
Victor M. Powell — Some Little Giant!
Please contribute your own comments and memories
|If not for your writing this topic could be very convoluted and oibqlue.|
posted by Hessy (email@example.com) on 12/19/11 08:07 AM
|What a BLESSING Professor Powell was. To his FAMILY. And to the COLLEGE. God bless him.|
posted by Charles A. Montgomery Jr '86 (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 11/03/11 04:38 PM
|I just found out that VIc passed. What a loss for all of us. He taught my first semester C&T course and man was it great. What energy and enthusiam! The course work was tough, but he always wanted you to succeed. He signed my diploma and I think of him often. Some Little Giant!|
posted by Jeff Boggess '89 (email@example.com) on 10/26/11 08:54 PM
|I graduated in 1956. Vic was the last living professor from that time. Vic Powell was a giant in the tradition of Frank Sparks, Byron Trippet and Norwood Brigance. He made things happen. He leaves large footprints on Wabash College and in the hearts of all who knew him. He will be greatly missed.|
posted by Bob Remley (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 10/12/11 11:09 AM
|Today, my heart is heavy upon hearing the news of Vic's passing; the weather in western Montana seems to reflect that mood. However, as the clouds fade and the sun begins to break up the morning fog, I recall Vic Powell's great sense of humor and that beaming smile that changed the mood of any conversation, of every intractable debate. I will miss that tremendously.|
posted by Rafael "Ralph" Chacon (email@example.com) on 10/10/11 11:59 AM
|Wabash College has always had great teachers; none more so than Dean Powell. Many Wabash College teachers and classmates are held dear in the hearts of her alumni; none more so than Dean Powell.Many of the loyal sons of Wabash College are sorely missed; none more so than Dean Powell. I owe so much to so many Wabash College teachers and alumni; none more so than Dean Powell.|
posted by Jim Talley '78 (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 10/10/11 11:45 AM
|When I came to Wabash in the fall of 1971 I had my mind set on going to law school. I was told that political science was the path way to law school for those of us who were on a "pre-law" track so I became a political science major. During my junior year I got into a debate with my faculty advisior who insisted that I was a speech and not a political science major. It was then that I realized for the first time the powerful influnce that Vic Powell had on me as a student at Wabash. Without actually intending to do so, I had completed the requirements for a speech major because of the care and concern that Vic had shown for me as a person as well as the joy and passion that he always brought to what he did in the class room and the Scarlet Inn! Shortly after I was named to the Board of Trustee's I had the good fortune of sitting down with Vic in the Scarlett Inn to talk about the role of a trustee illustrated by events that occurred at Wabash and in the Crawfordsville community long after I left the campus in 1975 headed for law school. It became very clear that his wisdom was only exceeded by his love for his family, community and for Wabash. While his passing is a sad day for me personally and professionally, I am a better man and Wabash is a better institution because Vic Powell passed this way.
Willyerd R. Collier Sr. '75|
posted by Willyerd R. Collier (email@example.com) on 10/10/11 05:55 AM
|I drove to Wabash from South Carolina to bring my son (now a Jr. in High School) to a Blueprint Admissions summer Program in 2010. I met and had the opportunity to sit out on the campus and chat with Mr. Powell. He told me about his long relationship with Wabash and his passion for the Students at Wabash. His enthusiasm for Wabash had an impact on me...it spoke to the character of the Wabash Community and contributes to why Wabash is on my son's College list. So thankful we both had an opportunity to know Vic Powell...if only for a brief time...He certainly leaves quite a legacy...|
posted by Jackie Stokes-Brown (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 10/10/11 01:43 AM
|Ironically, no one ever bothered about Vic's only imperfection: his lip. He is known for his speaking ability or "lip", if you will. We attended St. Louis Cardinals baseball games sitting side by side with Marion eating peanuts. I did not know his faith was U. Meth until after his passing. Vic was a master. Vic understood the reasons for my being ill-tempered and quarrelsome(i.e.cantankerous). Thank-you so much for believing in me, Vic. Send post-cards with pictures from Paradise. Love.|
posted by Jim Pace '78 (email@example.com) on 10/09/11 09:06 PM
|Dr. Powell was my professor, faculty advisor and friend. Never will I forget the day in Center Hall in a Speech 6 class when a few minutes into the hour it was apparent no on save Dr. Powell bothered to read the assignment for discussion. After several tense moments of shear silence, he stood up, closed his book, said something very brief and walked out. We were never unprepared again. I learned something that day about not only Vic Powell, but Wabash College and the love and desire for learning for the sake of knowledge. He will forever be in my mind and his spirit lives on in the countless men he nurtured and inspired. May God Bless Victor Powell. He clearly blessed us!|
posted by Henry Sabetti '84 (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 10/09/11 12:02 AM
|I never had Vic Powell as an official teacher, but I remember him and his wife from my time at Wabash as charming, witty, and always engaged in encouraging young minds. Thank you for all you have done for generations of Wabash men. Some Little Giant!|
posted by Cary Riggs (email@example.com) on 10/08/11 09:18 AM
|Although I never had the privledge of taking one of Vic Powells classes, I got to meet Vic and Marion during their visit to Tucson. They were scheduled to stay at a less than desireable hotel in town so my wife and I invited them to stay at our home instead. When he said that I didn't really know them, my response was that "You are a Wabah man and that's all that matters". We spent a few wonderful days with the Powells and becmae friends for life. When we stopped at their house, unannounced" during our last visit to Crawfordsville(for the last Glee Club reunion), they invited us to join them for dinner and we thoroughly enjoyed the visit. What a huge loss for the Wabash community. Steve Ganson '73|
posted by Steve Ganson (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 10/08/11 07:23 AM
|Whomever does his eulogy, I hope that he or she speaks with "Room filling energy."
When I tried my hand at being clergy, I started my first sermon in my first full-time pastorate by looking at the huge sanctuary, and noting that if I was to speak with room-filling energy I was risking personal injury.
At the risk of using jargon -- something Dean Powell told us to avoid like the plague -- let me say emphatically, "Some Little Giant!|
posted by Tim Wohlford '84 (email@example.com) on 10/07/11 03:10 PM
|To the family of Vic Powell, "Well done, my good and faithful servant" Vic leaves a legacy as well as a hole that cannot be filled. My condolences to the Family|
posted by Maere Floyd-Pitts (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 10/07/11 11:01 AM
|Always witty, always engaged, always kind, and always funny!
R.I.P. Vic - It has been a real pleasure and honor to have met you.
posted by Roberto Giannini (email@example.com) on 10/07/11 08:52 AM
|’Tis after death that we measure men.” wrote James Barron Hope a poet from Virginia. The measure of Vic Powell as a Wabash man shall be an easy task. His impact upon the Wabash community is legend. Moving between the roles of teacher, administrator, counselor, and friend of the college and the community he made a tremendous impression on all. As a Speech major fifty years ago, I became a better man for having Vic as my adviser. After graduation, I would meet him during annual meetings of Speech instructors in Indiana. He was as interested in how I was doing teaching high school speech classes as I was in his life at Wabash
Clearly I recall one of my most embarrassing moments at Wabash coming from one of Dr. Powell’s questions during my Oral Comprehensive exam. I had done a great deal of preparation for this portion of those exams, for there was the feeling that this portion would determine my score. The meeting was in his office at the top of the stairs in Center Hall, just to the side of that rope that rang the class bell. Three professors were in that room. Now the rumor was that if three were in the room, you were on the edge of not passing the exam. My palms were clammy, I felt parched. This surely is how a man feels just prior to being executed. Vic leaned back in his chair, looked at me and said, “Feit, just what do you think are the chances for the Cardinals this year?” My mind was working, but not my mouth. I knew he meant the St. Louis Cardinals, and as this was at the start of the baseball season he was interested in my forecast for his favorite team. I quite honestly have no idea what my response was, nor do I recall much of anything else that I uttered during the following sixty minutes. My urge was to run out the door, grab that bell rope and swing out into oblivion. When reminded of this event years later, Vic just said, “I was just trying to start in a relaxed mood.”
The entire Powell family, along with the Wabash family has lost a true friend. The measure of Vic Powell shall eternally be in our minds and hearts|
posted by Thom Feit '62 (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 10/07/11 02:41 AM
|Vic was the last of the professors from my time at Wabash. I was never fortunate enough to have studied under him but as time wore on we became friends and enjoyed discussing my classmates. A great guy and a great Little Giant.|
posted by Richard H. Griesser'51 (email@example.com) on 10/06/11 07:23 PM
|Vic Powell was ever the gentleman and provided significant support to the development of the Malcolm X Institute of Black Studies as an Administrator and Friend. Wabash has lost a legendary member of the family|
posted by keith Nelson (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 10/06/11 05:42 PM
|In the summer of 1984 I was blessed to be doing research in the biology department with Dr's Brooks and Doemel. (Some Little Giants, both!) I stopped by the Scarlett Inn the morning after Mario Cuomo, then governor of New York, had delivered the key note address at the Democratic National Convention. Professor Powell was seated at a table with several sttudents explaining how Governor Cuomo's speech was superb political oration.
Then quite the committed conservative, I turned and asked, "Really?"
For the next 15 minutes, Professor Powell provided for me a semester's worth of speech education. I never took a class from Professor Powell, but from that day forth I was a student of Professor Powell. Some Little Giant, indeed.|
posted by Kyle Carr (email@example.com) on 10/06/11 05:08 PM
|What a loss. Mr. Powell, it was privilege to get to know you my senior year. Your personality, energy and love of life and Wabash are truly inspiring. I will always cherish our time together, especially having lunch with you and your wonderful wife, Marion. Your relationship should be a model for all marriages. You will be greatly missed. - Jon Miller '08|
posted by Jon Miller (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 10/06/11 04:57 PM
|This was hard news to hear. I greatly admired and respected Vic Powell and feel very fortunate that my earliest days as a teacher at Wabash were during his tenure as Dean of the College. I am very grateful for the guidance and encouragement he gave me and I know all of Wabash benefited tremendously from his leadership and example. This is a very sad day.|
posted by James Fisher (email@example.com) on 10/06/11 03:47 PM