Bill Placher ’70, superstar theologian, was magical in the classroom.
I realize “magical” is not an “academic” word but it is the best descriptor I can think of – because his teaching was magical.
I never saw Bill in class at Wabash – my introduction to his style and ability came in Fort Worth, Texas at a high school in 2005. One of Bill’s books was used in the class, Bill was in Dallas for an alumni event, Peter Pactor ’65 taught at the school…you can piece together the rest.
Bill started the class with the question: “What are the characteristics of a Religion?”. A very bright young lady rattled off the book answer in convincing style. There were five or six characteristics…I can’t recall exactly. Bill wrote them on the board as she listed them. Over the next hour, he erased every single one as the class, in discussion, decided they were not applicable in all cases.
The magic wasn’t in proving the book wrong….Bill never did that. The magic came in the way he was able to get the students to think about much, much more than the “book answer”. He made them think. He made them reason. He made them question in a positive way – as if there is ALWAYS more to learn. At the end of class, they lined up to have him autograph his book.
This was a high school Religion class, let me remind you! And as I walked in, I had wondered how you could ever keep their attention for more than a few moments.
The magical teachers can – and you’ll find Bill Placher’s name at the top of that list.
As I sit here today, I keep having the image of God, Saint Peter, Thomas of Aquinas, and a few of the Disciples sitting around the round table in Heaven’s Scarlet Inn. They’ll be sitting there for hours, I’m sure…and the coffee is free!
We’ll miss Bill but we didn’t lose him – his impact will last for generations as you can tell by the numerous remembrances listed elsewhere on the web site. I guess God decided Bill had done enough on this earth and it was time to make the sabbatical a full one.
Bill Placher – Some Little Giant!
Photo: Bill teaching class at Nolan Catholic High School in 2005.