Dr BallGeorge Ball, Weyerhaeuser professor of biblical literature emeritus, drew a standing ovation at a campus party to celebrate his 95th birthday. George’s wife, Nancy, can be seen in the background.

A faculty chair to honor Dr. Ball? What could be more fitting? More than 450 alumni, staff, faculty and friends of the college rallied to the challenge, contributing $1.7 million to create the George Hudson Ball Chair in the Humanities.

George Ball, Weyerhaeuser professor of biblical literature emeritus, or Dr. Ball as he is lovingly referred to by generations of students, celebrated his 95th birthday on May 23, 2010. On that day, President George Bridges announced during the Commencement ceremony that the goal to endow the chair had been reached.

Two days later, at a campuswide birthday party and celebration of the chair, John Bogley ’85, vice president for development and college relations, shared excerpts from a few of the hundreds of notes sent by alumni to celebrate Dr. Ball and his influence on the college.

Among them:

Tim ’60 and Nancy Greenawalt Washburn ’61: “This chair for the humanities is perfect for you. You’ve always been optimistic about humanity’s ability to choose peace above conflict if given enough information, and that the humanities will help lift humanity’s expectations for a better life.”

Sarah Geren-Ziegler ’84: “The greatest lesson I learned from Dr. Ball is that providing a model is the most effective form of leadership. When you walk the talk, folks want to join you in the journey and the conversation.”

Brooke Edwards ’94: “You’re a dear friend, a sweet listener, a strong supporter, a promoter of dreams and a believer in the spirit. You’ve always been my champion; in those times when I least believed in myself, you believed in me.”

Dr. Ball told the crowd gathered for the celebration that he was “very glad to be here and be part of this.”

After 50 years — his first year teaching was 1960 — Whitman continues to be the perfect fit, he said. “Thank you for the life that you have made possible for me and for Nancy.”