Only Online: In Memoriam
James William (Bill) Whedbee, Ph.D.
Nancy B. Lyon Professor of Biblical Studies
September 24, 1938-January 22, 2004
From Hans Palmer, W.M. Keck Distinguished Service Professor and
Professor of Economics
I thought I would drop you a line since you are out of town, and I know
you like to keep up with doings in Claremont. As you know, I don’t get A’s
for frequent letters, but your buddy, Victor, inspired me with his poem
for you. Actually, since term has just started, not much has been going on
except for the usual stuff: the computer system drives us nuts, students
clamor to get into already bulging classes like yours, and parking spaces
just don’t exist.
One thing does get me, however: What is all this business about James W.
Whedbee? Who is that? Could that possibly be you? Nah, for me you are
Bill, always have been Bill, always will be Bill: Bill the ever
young--seemingly ageless even when you have a wonderful, brilliant,
caring, and grown son ready to take on his life’s calling. For me your
never-failing youth started right when you came to Pomona in 1966. I
remember, when we saw you stride fashionably across campus, our friend,
Bob Voelkel remarked that he and I were too old to wear bell bottom Levis
(this was the 60s after all!), but that you, our younger colleague, could
pull it off and did. He also said that you wrote and spoke like a dream, a
truth repeated countless times in your lectures and your prose. Always
hating to run myself, even when younger, I remember being exhausted just
watching you and the other young Pomona runners—Richard McKirahan, Pat
Mulcahy, Jurgen Frolich, Jack Quinlan, Frank Wykoff, Don Zenger, Jim
Armantage, Bob Voelkel—zoom around the old red clay track. And zoom you
For me, you are Bill the caring friend, Bill with no enemies, Bill who
includes all and speaks harshly to none, Bill the magician with your
students who gave you five teaching awards, and Bill the wonder with
words. I know you, Bill, in a personal way because you often help me over
rough spots and disappointments with humor and perspective. With your
help, I sometimes can transform my ponderous prose to say what I really
want to say, just as you inspire thoughts I hadn’t found before. It is no
wonder that in your work and in your life you gift us with seeing the
comedy and joy of the profound, even the tragic, in life and in words.
Your comedic view of Holy Scripture leaves me breathless and viewing the
world with new eyes.
A friend recently said that when you left, we lost a gentleman and
something even rarer, a gentle man. I would agree, if, truly, you have
left. But I think that, really, you are just out of town.