Etcetera - 06/08/10


George Ball, a professor of Biblical literature emeritus at Whitman College, was feted recently for his 95th birthday. In addition, Whitman officials formally announced at the celebration the George H. Ball Chair in the Humanities. He was cited for "affirming our hearts, opening our minds and touching our souls."

He maintains an office on campus in the Memorial Building where he daily welcomes students, faculty and staff and is frequently sought out by visiting alumni, a release said.

Since he first came to Whitman in 1960, he "has served as an extraordinary educator, as well as a confidant, moral anchor and friend to countless Whitman students."

The native of New South Wales, Australia, was born May 23, 1915, and later moved to New York where he attended high school. He graduated from Cornell Law School, earned his doctoral degree in religion from Yale University and became an ordained Methodist minister.

"The relationships he has built and maintained have influenced and changed countless lives," the release noted.

George rides his bicycle to campus and around town throughout the year. Passionate about growing flowers, the Memorial Building staff benefit as he often brings fresh-cut flowers for them to use in their offices.

His impact on the Whitman community has spanned academics, spiritual and social development, co-curricular and athletics. In recognition of five decades as one of Whitman's most ardent fans and proponents of sportsmanship, George was inducted as an honorary member of the Whitman College Athletics Hall of Fame in 2009. The main gymnasium in the newly renovated Sherwood Athletic Center is named the George Ball Court.

Whitman Class of 1964 alumnus Stephen Ronfeldt wrote about George in Whitman College magazine. "His affirming spirit fills every nook and cranny of Whitman, present and past. He resoundingly greets you on pathways and unabashedly probes into the joy or pain of your heart. He urges you onward in performance, on stage and off, in sports and debates. He counsels insightfully. Around a bowl of apples in his home, he holds lively "cell group" (discussion) meetings each month -- for 40 years. After graduation, he follows what you do.

"George Ball ... genuinely cares about you, who you are and endeavor to be."

He kindled my courage to cope with a girlfriend's death. He has moved countless others beyond limiting fears or cynicism into a richer awareness of themselves and meaning of life.

Stephen also cited George for his abilities in the classroom, where "he combined a lawyer's Socratic training with brilliance and wonderment."

"George Ball teaches with beautiful imagery -- the serenity of a duck floating on tumultuous waves, alone on the horizon's vast edge, touching an enormous, deep sea. He lives in that image, calmly engaging in the tumultuous issues of today with an eye on the eternal edge, and a soul that touches into the sea depths of relationships with endless students, young and old.

"Practicing what he preaches, he is a truly great professor, friend and mentor in life. Deepest thanks, George Ball, for affirming our hearts, opening our minds, and touching our souls."

George and wife Nancy have four children.

Etcetera appears in daily and Sunday editions. Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at or afternoons at 526-8313.


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