Eulogy for Dr. Ball’s Memorial Service
January 28, 2012, 2:30 pm
Cordiner Hall, Whitman College
By Abigail St. Lawrence (Class of 2000)
When I left Montana for Whitman, Randy Jacobs advised me to be sure to stop in and see Dr. Ball when I got to campus. “He has a soft spot for Montana students,” Randy told me. A few weeks into the semester, a little homesick and in need of some comfort, I decided to pay Dr. Ball a visit. As I soon found out, it wasn’t just Montana students for whom Dr. Ball had affection; in fact, it wasn’t just students. Dr. Ball just loved people, and to be around someone with that capacity for kindness was addictive. Like so many other Whitties, I kept coming back to talk to Dr. Ball, and some of my happiest hours at the college were spent in his office.
By the time I arrived at Whitman, Dr. Ball no longer taught regularly, but was still an essential part of this community. His office was a quite refuge for many of us—homesick, lovelorn, or just in need of a quite space and a soft guiding hand as we talked things through. His smile was a warm welcome in itself, and the sight of him peddling his bike around campus was a reminder that life remained fulfilling and active long beyond the arrogance of youth if one only made the effort. For my classmates and me, Dr. Ball was simply a constant at Whitman, just as much as the chiming of the Mem clock—something that had always been at the college and we assumed always would be. It just wouldn’t be Whitman without either.
Of course, Dr. Ball could never stay with us forever. As much as we might wish otherwise, he was bound for more than this life could give. However, Dr. Ball’s spirit can remain at Whitman long after his smile and kind voice have left us. Among all the lessons Dr. Ball taught us, the greatest of these is love— love of learning, love of community, love of people, love of life. And he also taught us not to give up on what we love, despite how life, people, community, and certainly learning can batter us at times. If we take that love that Dr. Ball shared so freely with all of us and continue to share it, Dr. Ball will remain with us and a part of this place. So love freely. Love fearlessly. Love not for what you will gain, but for the sheer joy of it. Never stop learning. Never stop giving. Never stop exploring. And never stop loving. If we can do that, Dr. Ball will live beyond his own time here with us, and we will be able to give back some of what he so openly gave to all of us.