In Loving Memory of Dr. George Ball
By Randy Jacobs
It is hard to believe that it was 50 years ago this fall that I first set foot on the Whitman campus. Very soon thereafter, a kind, joyful, smiling Dr. George Ball reached out, took me under his wings and began to help guide me on that wonderful journey called life. He was a teacher, a counselor, a mentor, and ultimately, a very dear friend. Then, until now, and forever.
However, I am very certain that my experience with George Ball was not unique. I suspect that all, or nearly all of you here today, and many others who were unable to join us, have had a similar experience with George, having been touched by his kind, caring and loving soul. George Ball touched so many and in so many different ways.
When “Dr. Ball” stories are told, most do not start as classroom stories but rather about how George shared with students, colleagues, friends, and family his insight into the greater issues of life. At the time of George’s 80th birthday celebration, many students, colleagues, friends, and family sent
George wonderful letters proclaiming why he meant so much to them. Those letters were complied into two very large volumes and given to George at his birthday celebration. I believe that those books will be in the reception room today and if you have not previously had the pleasure of paging through them, do so today. I’m sure the letters will bring a smile to your face and heart. In advance of that, let me take the liberty of sharing with you a few choice snippets from some of those letters that I thought were special and tell the story of George Ball better than I can:
“Dear Dr. Ball: I want you to know that I picked up garbage today because of you…” Alice Cunningham ’87
“First, a disclaimer: anything I say about Dr. Ball will be hopelessly, extravagantly biased. I love him fiercely and protectively. I believe he is one of finest human beings in the world…” Patrick Page ’85
“I gained more from my association with you beside the tennis court than I learned in most classes. You set an example of caring, learning, and high goals we could not help but try to emulate.” Tom McCoy ’65
David and Linda Williams ’67 and ’69 wrote: “ Our children grew up with our stories of the bicycling professor who would always stop to share a kind word. Our children, too, heard that special advice, ‘Always do what love requires’…”
As we take time today to remember George, I, like Steve, want to say that I think we all owe a very special thank you to Nancy, Allen, Sarah, Larry, and Eric who so unselfishly and kindly shared George with us during these
past 50 plus years.
Sarah, in her letter to her George at the time of the birthday celebration, speaking for herself and her siblings, wrote it so nicely, saying in part:
“We kids didn’t mind sharing you with Whitman – a heart as big as the great outdoors and an energy level that would get most children diagnosed as hyperactive, still left plenty of caring and plenty of time for everyone. And for daily tennis. And tin cans!!!”
I truly believe that we all have been so blessed to have had George for all these many years as a husband, a father, a teacher, a colleague, and most
importantly, as a very, very dear friend.
Thank you so much George. The journey has been wonderful – with much more to come.