Whitman's George Ball dies

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Photo of George H. Ball from May 2011.

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George Ball (right) congratulates Jon Walters (left).

WALLA WALLA - A widely revered and influential Whitman College professor has died.

George H. Ball, who has an endowed chair in the humanities named after him, died Sunday at the age of 96, the college reported.

Ball's career spanned five decades, coming to Whitman in 1960 to establish the college's religion studies department. Ball taught religion for 20 years before retiring in 1980, although he continued to teach introductory religion courses, and advising students, well after.

"An anchor on campus and in our community, George was a standard-bearer for ethics and justice, a beloved and exceptional teacher of and adviser to generations of Whitman students, and an extraordinarily decent and caring person," said Whitman President George Bridges in a statement.

Last year, marking Ball's 95th birthday, the college established the George Hudson Ball Chair in the Humanities in his honor, following contributions of $1.7 million by 450 alumni, staff, faculty and friends of the college.

Ball was born in Australia and raised on a small farm in upstate New York, according to information provided by Whitman College. He earned a law degree from Cornell University, but switched paths to earn a doctorate in religion from Yale University. He was ordained a Methodist minister, and served as an army chaplain during World War II.

Known locally for his dedication to bicycling and recycling goods, Ball found a home at Whitman College after losing other positions for his liberal views. Ball was a participant of the Vietnam war protests and candlelight vigils, and was fired from the University of Denver for not signing an anticommunist oath. He also had a contract not renewed with Oberlin College for not censoring a student letter.

Ball and his wife, Nancy, had four children. His daughter, Sarah Ball Teslick, graduated from Whitman in 1974, the same year Ball gave the Baccalaureate address.

Ball's legacy at Whitman included not just teaching, but marrying many Whitman couples and advising countless students on life, love and faith.

Besides the humanities chair, Ball's inspiration and dedication is found in other tributes and memorials. When the Reid Campus center opened in 2002, alumni named the meeting room in Ball's honor.

A sportsmanship award in his name was first awarded in 2007, and in 2009 he was inducted as an honorary member of the Athletics Hall of Fame. Also that year, the main gym in Sherwood athletic center was named George Ball Court.

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