Adam Kirtley

Opening Remarks:

Thank you, Josh.  Good afternoon.  As has become convention at public gatherings, I remind you to please silence your cell phone.  Thank you.  My name is Adam Kirtley, and I am the Stuart Coordinator of Religious and Spiritual life here at Whitman.  And it is my honor to welcome you to this celebration of the life of a remarkable man, Dr. George Ball.  It occurs to me that if in our gathering we seek to say what can be said about him, or that if we seek to measure his footprint, or if we seek to reach the end grieving, or if we seek to put the final punctuation on his influence in lives of so many, if we seek to do what we so often do at a memorial service, we would of course, not succeed.

There are too many teachings, too many memories, too many smiles, too many friendships to fully tell the story of the man.  So our task here, one might argue, is significantly more humble.  And I suspect George would have it that way.  You see, despite the wisdom of his counsel, he fundamentally was a man defined by the relationships in his life…relationships not simply as a casual byproduct of where one works or lives…but relationships as the intentional, and essential measure of what it means to be  human.  And as such, those who knew George face the sad adjustment of living in a world without him. But today we celebrate those relationships that will live on.  We celebrate a life incredibly well-lived.  We celebrate a legacy unscathed by mortality. And as his wife Nancy said recent weeks, to celebrate the life of George Ball is in fact to celebrate life in general.

Former student, long-time friend of the Ball family,  and our first speaker this afternoon, Steve Ronfeldt, offered to me what I thought was marvelous suggestion for how to open this service.  He reminded me that we all hold vivid images of Dr. Ball bounding across campus giving us a resounding greeting. So let us begin this celebration in his spirit:  I invite you say hello, extend your hand, or give hugs to those around you.  Don’t be bashful, George wasn’t. 

(Time for greeting)

To listen to the chatter of human connection made precisely in his honor is something that I suspect would be pleasing to the very core of George Ball.  It is this human connection - these relationships -  that will provide the structure for our gathering this afternoon.  To begin, we will hear a series of reflections delivered by Dr. Ball’s formers students.  This is, of course, only a tiny sample of the individuals who considered him to be one of the most influential figures in their entire college experience, if not their lives.  Following our first round of speakers we will view a brief photo presentation which has been narrated by two current students who knew and revered Dr. Ball.  Their narration consists entirely of passages written by George Ball or about him by his students.  The second set of speakers will speak on behalf of those who knew George as a colleague and peer - those who worked beside him and witnessed his legacy develop and unfold over five decades on this campus.  The final section of the service is appropriately reserved for and dedicated to George’s family.  We will see a presentation of family photos and hear his children reflect on their father.

So now to gather your thoughts, to secure your fullest presence in this important moment, I’d like to offer a prayer that was written by George and delivered at the Whitman’s Fall Convocation in 1965.  I invite you to pray with me:

O Lord, It was not until I was 12 years old that my curiosity was greater than my fear and climbed to the top of the ridge to the west of our village.  On the other side was a valley and beyond that another hill.  Years later I climbed that hill, but from its top more hills and mountains were visible off in the west.  Since those days I have climbed a number of the hills only to discover new ridges and mountains still farther off.  And there are doubtless more beyond the horizon.   Now it is clear that I shall not reach the last mountain.  Perhaps man never will.  But the nearer man comes to realizing this, the nearer he comes to a true reverence for Thee, for Thou didst both establish the mountains and set out the path by which we my travers them.  Accompany us with Thy spirit as this day we start out upon another segment of the great journey.  Amen.

Steve…

Closing Remarks:

Thank you all for being here with us today.  Thank you to each of our speakers for sharing your thoughts with us today.  What a tremendous honor to be involved, what a remarkable responsibility…thank you indeed.  And I believe I speak on behalf of everyone in this room, and so many more who would like to be here but were unable when I say to you Nancy, and Alan, Sarah, Larry, and Eric we offer our deepest sympathies and strongest support.  Thank you for sharing your husband, your father, your grandfather with all of us.

The Balls would like to invite you to join them for a reception in the Young Ballroom of Reid Campus Center where we might share some refreshments, sign the guest book if you haven’t done so, but most importantly to be in relationship with one another, to continue to share stories and memories, and to reflect on what it is we have learned from George Ball.  I’d like to close our time here with another prayer written by George and delivered at the memorial service of Tom Howells in 1991.  I invite you to pray with me:

Your death will put an end to all significance you have for yourself, but not an end to the significance you have for us.  We will be the inheritors of your profoundest insights, the beneficiaries of your teaching, your example and your love.  We will be the conservators and transmitters of the values that you have believed in, the custodians of the hopes of those for whose lives you had such great compassion.  We will be the repository of the truths that you have cherished and the means by which these truths reach subsequent generations.  It is all the continuation of a process by which you yourself came to us, and we are inexpressibly grateful.  We say goodbye to that part of you which is no longer with us, buy you yourself are still here.


Adam Kirtley