Pomona College Magazine
Spring 2004
Volume 40, No. 3

Spring 2004 Contents
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Margaret Adorno
Martha Andresen
Jay David Atlas
Leslie Barnard
Denise Bergez
Stephen Erickson
Tamara Eskenazi
Hans Palmer
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Ken Wolf

In Memoriam: Bill Whedbee


Only Online: In Memoriam
James William (Bill) Whedbee, Ph.D.

Nancy B. Lyon Professor of Biblical Studies
September 24, 1938-January 22, 2004

From Ken Wolf, Professor of History

In a way I feel unworthy to have been given one of these precious segments to express my feelings about Bill and what he meant to me. This hall is filled with people whose lives Bill touched, many of whom knew him much longer and much better than I did.

Indeed looking back on the relationship I had with Bill before his illness, I am a bit embarrassed to say that I could count on one hand the number of times that he was a guest at my house or I a guest at his. We didnít do coffee together at Somecrust or meet for lunch at the Village Grille, and only once do I remember getting together with Bill for a beer after work. Had I come to Pomona in the early seventies rather than the mid-eighties, I would have spent some quality time with him on the basketball court (Iím told he had quite a set shot). But by the time I got here he had already exchanged his high-tops for Nikes. And even though I tried (well, once anyway), I couldnít keep up with him on the track.

My relationship with Bill was built instead out of the bits and pieces of everyday contact, contact that owed much to two happy circumstances: one, that his office was right next to the xerox machine; and two, that he never bothered to close his door. I donít believe that a day went by in the seventeen years that we shared that vine-covered version of Pearsons that I did not walk by and poke my head into that unimagineably chaotic office to commiserate about the mid-semester work load, to compare notes on a student whom we had in common, or to discuss a bible passage that was giving me fits. I never made an appointment but I donít remember a time when he didnít seem genuinely happy to see me, ready to put down his book or set aside a stack of papers and simply chat.

It was on that kind of contact--little daily encounters that either of us would have been hard-pressed to recall even a week later--that Billís and my relationship was based. Aside from auditing a class or two from each other along the way, I remember only two occasions when our relationship truly transcended that casual, collegial context. Once, in December of 1991, when Bill stood up in a cabinet meeting and put to rest all doubts about my future at Pomona College. And again in March of 2003, when I ran into Bill just outside the Smith Center and he told me that he needed to go to the hospital. Over the next ten months, the last ten months of Billís life, I spent a lot of time at Billís house and finally got to know Bill the way you probably think I knew him all along.

It strikes me now, in Billís absence, how much a community like ours operates in just this way. That surprisingly deep relationships can be carved out over time by countless, unplanned daily encounters. These, it seems to me now more than ever before, are the ties that bind us in a world like Pomona College. Ties that we tend to take for granted until theyíre gone. But ties that probably wouldnít work nearly as well if we didnít.

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