Faculty and Staff Memories

Pat Henry, Cushing Eells professor of philosophy and foreign languages and literatures, emeritus

Each time I taught a course on the Holocaust (2002-2006), I invited George Ball to my first class to talk to the students about his experiences during WWII. Each time George told the same story. For three years, as a chaplain accompanying troops, he had felt like he was part of a killing machine that was contaminating his being. Then in 1945, he and the troops he was with happened upon two concentration camps, one of them much larger than the other and one that the Germans had hastily abandoned to avoid the advancing American troops. There he and the others found hundreds of frozen corpses stacked on top of one another, corpses that the Germans did not have time to burn before they departed. George said that, thereafter, he was no longer able to consider himself an absolute pacifist, because he felt that one could not just stand on the sidelines when a genocide was taking place.

During the break at one of those classes, a student asked George why he always picked up cans in the streets of Walla Walla. George responded; “I live here.”

Without ever telling anyone what to do or how to lead their life but simply by responding to our questions, George gave us his greatest gift: a vivid and undeniable awareness of our own responsibilities within all the communities we belong to.

Martin Kopf, former associate professor of French
George Ball represents to me one of the most important persons in my life. When I was going through my tenure battle at Whitman, George was my most ardent partisan and acted as my advocate. He believed in me. I will be forever grateful for his compassion and the time he spent defending me. I emerged successfully from that struggle. I'll never forget George's energy and integrity. I spent many pleasant hours with him on the tennis courts in a more social setting. His good spirits and sportsmanship were unforgettable. The Whitman community was privileged to have had him and I feel personally saddened by the new of his demise. My condolences to Nancy and the whole Ball Family.

Mary Anne O'Neil, professor of French
Like so many faculty members, I have been the beneficiary of George Ball’s kindness. I remember two incidents in particular. George attended the talk I gave during my interview at Whitman in 1977. He came up to me at the end and told me I was a good teacher. I know he shared his opinion with other teachers in attendance, and I’m certain that his opinion helped me secure my job. In 1985, George officiated at a small wedding where my five-year-old daughter, Anne, was the bridesmaid. Fascinated by someone she perceived as old, she said to George after the ceremony that when he died, she would bring flowers to his grave. With his usual generosity, George thanked her for her kindness and even complimented her on her respect for older people. When I announced the sad news of George’s death to Anne this week, she reminded me to fulfill the promise she had made to him so many years ago.