We were in the Class of 1973, Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning at Utah State University in Logan, Utah. Paul was older than most of us and took on the reign, becoming at least in our eyes, as the “Philosopher King”. He was always a solid designer and serious when talking to our professors who were actually closer in age to him than we were—he seemed able to speak more as a peer during the design critiques that we endured regularly. When he first joined our class, he was very quiet, reserved, but always willing to interact on a formal, professional basis. Then... our class went on a “Wilderness Experience” field trip to Southern Utah where, in 3 University vans of eight, we camped, hiked and explored. Our van of eight were the class rebels and we plotted our own course, arriving at the pre-selected meeting places for the whole class, more or less on time, but the rest of the time we took off on our own. We all got to know each other very well in those eight glorious days experiencing the splendors of Southern Utah. This is when Paul became the beloved “Philosopher King”.
Paul’s first high-class act of kindness was when he took us all to his house in Price at the start of the trip and to the cafe his family owned. He confidently introduced this rough-looking long-haired(for those days) group of strangers to his mom and dad, who were very kind. His mom immediately offered, in the middle of the afternoon, to cook us a Greek dinner. We declined as a dinner for eight of us seemed a too large of a stretch of hospitality, but we went down to the cafe and ordered an amazing lunch there. Such kindness that family had! If we were okay with Paul, we were okay with his parents.
Paul was always smoking his ever-present pipe, looking like a cross between a British rock star and Bing Crosby. Jet black, properly cut, straight hair and dramatic sunglasses—he WAS the movie star. He had a quiet, unflappable manner: soft-spoken, never complaining, with never more words than required but usually with a surprise mirthful ending. We all hit it off and had an incredible time on this wild trip—and there was always the calm steady presence of Paul. We imagined ourselves as a traveling band of hippie rock-star designers and posed as a group more than once for our fantasy “album covers.” We scaled dizzying heights and traversed narrow ledges along sheer thousand-foot cliffs. We made our way up tiny footholds carved into red rock to Anasazi cliff dwellings hundreds of feet above the trail and petroglyphs became a daily graphic delight. After our adventures Paul would sit at the campfire at night, adding the one- or two-word flourishes at the end of a story that would crack us all up, including himself. He had funny advice when asked and the ability to do whatever athletic endeavors were needed, never complaining even though he was skinny as a rail!
In our van, one late night, we were trying to take a short cut “scenic route” to make a meeting with the rest of the class. The scenic route was shown on our map as an unimproved but through road. It was not only not improved, but after many bumpy hours we came upon the blasting stakes showing where the road would be completed... someday. Then...we ran out of gas: no civilization, just stars and darkness. We were many, many miles from Boulder, Utah, the nearest town which was then a tiny little hamlet: no restaurant and one pay phone. So we made camp that night right there by the van in the desert.
Spring on the desert—it was freezing, and I remember Paul, blanket over his head, pipe sticking out, shivering seated by the campfire. Then...voices!? Female voices all of a sudden, out of nowhere, then flashlights! It was a BYU women’s survival class who had seen our fire! We couldn’t believe our luck. Ten beautiful women had materialized out of the desert wilderness. What were the odds? Both of our groups had not bathed in a number of days and yet all of the women looked glamorous to us aged twenty-something, men. The women surveyed the situation and immediately fell for quiet, handsome, smiling Paul. We were all trying to be very cool and suave. They saw Paul shivering and went over immediately and hugged him and cuddled with him to help him get warm. He had made no “moves” whatsoever on the women like the rest of us awkwardly attempted to do (he was after all, a married man). Nope, they were taken with only Paul who simply smiled that charismatic smile, sat under his blanket and cooly waited for their attention. He was then and evermore THE PHILOSOPHER KING...
Paul would have gotten the Mr. Congeniality award for not only that trip, but also in the upcoming long days and nights of our grueling course work in the LAEP studio. Paul was now our brand new, charismatic, kind, thoughtful and hilariously quietly humorous shining star.
We are so proud and lucky to have gotten to know and admire such a talented human as our Philosopher King. Our sincerest condolences go out to the family. Until we meet again P. Platis, we salute you!
Bob Bissland, Al Cooksey, Ralph Mize, and Dan Wilson
L.A.E.P. Class of ‘73
Left to right, back row: Bob Bissland, Paul Platis, J. Robert Behling, Al Cooksey.Front row: Ralph Mize, Chuck Killpack, Jim Ahrens, Dan ”Appleman” Wilson.