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Trustees Announce Placher Fund

by Jim Amidon
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Wabash College Board of Trustees Chairman Stephen S. Bowen ’68 and President Patrick E. White announced on Saturday the creation of the William C. Placher Fund for Faculty Support. The Placher Fund honors the memory of Dr. Bill Placher ’70, a loyal alumnus, generous donor, prolific writer, internationally acclaimed theologian, and outstanding teacher.
The Trustees have designated $5 million for the fund, including a $1.4 million leadership gift from Professor Placher’s estate, and seek to raise another $5 million in Placher Fund gifts from alumni, faculty, staff and friends during the Challenge of Excellence campaign.
“To support, nurture, and develop the excellence of Wabash faculty involves various elements, not the least of which is support for salary,” said Bowen. “The Board has long recognized the vital importance of the faculty in shaping the life-changing excellence of a Wabash education, and all of us on the Board have experienced the quality of the faculty directly. The Placher Fund demonstrates our particular commitment to the special role faculty play in the excellence of the College and the greatness of a Wabash education.”
The Placher Fund will enable the College to enhance faculty salaries, making the College more competitive in hiring and retaining excellent teachers; and, it will help Wabash achieve its strategic plan and Challenge of Excellence goals to “attract, develop, support, retain, and encourage excellent faculty who will enhance the mission and core values of Wabash College.”
“Naming of this fund in honor of Bill Placher is grounded in two important realities,” said President White.
“For the Wabash faculty, Bill Placher remains an important model of our best imagination of the teacher, scholar, and leader, and he embodied the qualities we all want to emulate. The second reason is that Bill left the greatest portion of his estate to the College. We can think of no better way to honor Bill’s memory than to use his gift to the College as a lead part of the initial endowment of this important initiative.”
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. When he died, he was in his 34th year as one of Wabash’s most popular teachers. In 1999 Placher was named the LaFollette Distinguished Professor in the Humanities.
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.
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. His commentary on the Gospel of Mark was published posthumously.
“The core purpose of the College is the teaching work that takes place inside and outside of the classroom,” said Dean of the College Gary A. Phillips. “Such work marks the liberal arts collegium at its best. If the lifeblood of a good liberal arts College is the ideas, issues, and questions put into circulation throughout the campus, the central organ that enlivens the body is the faculty, a faculty committed to the highest ideals of the scholar/teacher. The Wabash faculty emulates this ideal and aspiration to excellence, and it is therefore proper and right that the Trustees have created the Placher Fund to sustain and nurture their work.”
The Challenge of Excellence is a $60 million campaign that will provide financial aid and scholarships for students; support for faculty excellence; resources for global educational opportunities; and enhanced business education and career development. For more information, including our progress to date and ways to give, please click here.