Reading Larry Rector’s tribute – indicating that Dr. Ball had been a major factor in his decision to attend Whitman – added still another reason for me to be grateful to him. For four years, Larry was my close friend, fraternity brother, track and cross-country teammate, and during our senior year, roommate.
I was fortunate to have Dr. Ball as my pre-major advisor, though when he assembled our group of wide-eyed freshmen for an orientation talk before school began, I promptly fell asleep while sitting in the front row. Not only did he not hold that against me, it would also be the last time it would ever happen.
Whenever I needed a sympathetic ear during the next four years, his office door was always open. He would listen attentively, no matter how much time I needed, and offer heartfelt advice that always validated me. I left Whitman knowing one thing: if I ever got married, he would perform the ceremony.
While it took nearly three decades, it was worth the wait – both in terms of finding the right woman and in having our union blessed by such a wonderful man, who happily came to Seattle from Walla Walla to join Catherine and me as we launched our life together.
Every year, I looked forward to receiving his Christmas letter, which included vivid descriptions of his many travels. I was always envious of the far-flung corners of the world he had visited, though once I thought I had one-upped him. During the 2010 multi-class reunion, my wife and I sat in his office. I told him of my visit to Antarctica several years earlier, almost smug in my belief that finally I had set foot where he hadn’t. He nodded, then responded, “Yes, when we were there…”
Those letters always included a hand-written note. Even at the age of 95, he still could write, “time has not been able to kill the memory of those lovely memories of when you came here.” Even then, he was modest, emphasizing what I had meant to him. Whatever modest contribution I may have made pales in comparison with his influence on my life. He was simply the most caring, compassionate and generous human being I have ever known, and his memory will always be fresh in my mind.
Jim Whiting ’65