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Vonnegut Library Inspired by Placher ’70

During Banned Books Week in September 2015, the Indianapolis library honoring Kurt Vonnegut proved a fitting venue for a celebration of the freedom to read and led by Wabash President Gregory Hess, Professor Emeritus of English Marc Hudson, and poet and DePauw Professor Joe Heithaus.

The night meant even more if you knew the Wabash professor whose memorial service inspired the founding of the Vonnegut Library.

It was the sort of evening of literature and laughter, reflection and remembrance, that library founder Julia Whitehead had in mind when she envisioned the project in 2008. Her husband, J.T Whitehead ’87, had been a student of Wabash Professor of Philosophy and Religion Bill Placher ’70.The couple attended the memorial service for Bill in Pioneer Chapel December 6, 2008.

“There were so many kind words about Placher, and he clearly touched so many lives in an extraordinary way. People of all ages loved him,” Julia recalls. “As I was rocking our youngest child to sleep that night, I thought of who I would want to hold such a memorial service for. And my mind went straight to Vonnegut.

“The next day, I Googled his son, Mark, in Massachusetts and said I had an idea for a nonprofit library in honor of his father.

“There was magic in the air at Wabash College on the night of Placher’s memorial service. I’m grateful I was there to be inspired. It changed the course of my life.”

The library celebrated its fifth year on January 23.