“To be given a voice is to be set free,” Professor Steve Webb ’83 told us in Salter Hall during his LaFollette Lecture in October 2003.” He was referring, in part, to the way “early Christians remade the world by their words,” but he was also talking about the work of teaching.
“Wabash is still a College made out of sound, where the chime of the Chapel carillon, the roar of Chapel Sing, and the yells of the crowd after a Little Giant touchdown can be heard campus-wide,” said Webb, who died March 5. “Where students step onto the stage, raise their voices and sing, act, and debate; still a place that offers students the intimacy of hearing their professors in close quarters, where we know each other through the spoken word, and where community is built upon speaking and listening.
Read remembrances of Professor Webb at www.afterhours180.com
“Wabash is also place where we still say you are not educated until you know how to speak.”
As a teacher who loved the minds of young men, Steve was determined to help them find that voice. He reveled in the chase. He found joy in challenging students—close-up and face-to-face—to find their voices in his classroom, in his office at the west end of the second floor of center hall, and in conversations across campus.
It was a commitment to teaching the whole man that was modeled by his own mentors in the religion department he became such an essential part of—a shared dedication I first encountered interviewing and photographing Steve and Professor Bill Placher ’70 in my first year working at Wabash.
That was the moment I learned that a Wabash education was as much about relationships as ideas, and much more about connections than Commencement.
Bill and Steve had different methods, temperaments, and personalities—Steve captured that difference for posterity in his interview with Bill in his book Taking Religion to School. But they had similar goals.
They were also extraordinary writers with missions to reach readers outside academia, with different though complementary styles.
For me as editor of Wabash Magazine, their words were a great gift I had the honor to pass along to our readers. For me as a person of faith, those words were life-giving. Bill opened my eyes to wonder anew at the mysteries of God; Steve helped me see new ways they were alive in an ever-changing world. His most recent posting on First Things, “God of the Depressed,“ is so keenly observed, compassionate, and heartbreakingly true, it just might be a life-saving touchstone for those of us who struggle with depression.
“Many depressed Christians instinctively turn to God-help, not self-help, literature, but there is little of that out there, and God himself is distant to their cries,” Steve writes. “Perhaps that can serve as a theological definition of depression: When your need for God is as great as your feeling of God’s absence.”
You can get a sense of Steve’s insightful, honest, provocative, and generous writing in some of the other excerpts and links I’ve listed below. But I encourage you to search beyond these to more recent works, as well.
You’ll find the words of a man who not only found his voice, but helped so many of us, students and friends, find our own.
—Steve Charles, Editor, WM
Some works by Stephen Webb in WM:
Read more about Professor Webb on the Wabash Web site.