William Lewis Reese

Obituary
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  • "I did not know Bill but now I see why my friend Claudia is..."
    - Julie Biechlin
  • "Dear Claudia (and Bill's Family): I felt sad when I found..."
    - Ram Chugh
  • "Bill was one of the very best human beings whom I have ever..."
  • "Bill was a kind and engaging colleague. He always had a..."
    - Bonnie Steinbock
  • " ...my sincere condolences.."
    - Arlene Leff
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Reese, William Lewis II SLINGERLANDS William Lewis Reese II died in Slingerlands on September 22, 2017. He was born in Jefferson City, Mo. in 1921, to William Reese and Lillian Fisher. He married Louise Weeks in 1945, and she predeceased him in 2002. They had three children, William Lewis Reese III (deceased 2007), Patricia Reese, and Claudia Reese. Additionally, he is survived by his son-in-law, John Ford; his grandchildren, Taylor Reese Martin, Jordan Reese Ford Stovall; his nieces, Sue Ann Fossett, Francis Ralston Croft, Julia Westerinen; and his nephew, Rick Ralston. His children are so grateful to have had him as a father, role model and mentor. He was a superlative human being, patient, kind, always able to bring a sense of humor to any situations often diffusing tension with a wry comment. He was thoughtful, precariously intelligent; he went through his life as a superstar, excelling in every endeavor from his precocious childhood to his last tenure at the Beverwyck nursing home. While packing up his room, many staff members came in with tears and heartfelt stories, most saying 'he was my favorite" and most thinking that they were also his favorite, both of which were probably true. Claudia and Patty are so honored to have had him as our dad for such a lovely long time, he was 96 and a half; almost a century. He was gunning for 100, it was the only time he ever fell short, But what a life! We miss him terribly. Bill grew up between the World Wars with the Great Depression sandwiched inbetween. His family suffered during the depression, his father a minister, his mother baking goods for the kids to sell door to door. Being an independent young man and the son of a popular preacher, and not enjoying sales, he worked out a circuit of four country churches in need of a preacher and drove a Model A Ford to a different church every week. He was dubbed the "Boy Wonder of the Ozarks," and continued preaching until he started at Drury College, where he became "Big Man on Campus," captain of the debate team and star of a weekly radio soap, airing to rapt audiences during his college years. He was recruited to the University of Chicago where he received one degree in divinity and went on to earn a Ph.D. in philosophy at 25, the youngest Ph.D. awarded at the University of Chicago. He had a long teaching career first at Drake University and then at Grinnell College, both in Iowa. Moving to the University of Delaware as chairman of the philosophy department, he taught and his family thrived for seven years, when he was awarded a grant from the Ford Foundation to report on the Humanities and Arts in Latin America. The whole family embarked on a life changing year-long journey, visiting every country in South America and settling in Buenos Aires for a year. He met with artists, playwrights, musicians, philosophers and poets including a visit with Jorge Luis Borges at his home in Buenos Aires, finally producing a document for the Ford Foundation detailing the importance of the arts in Latin America. The whole family became fluent in Spanish. Upon return, the next stop was SUNY Albany, where he taught for the rest of his career, a teaching career that spanned six decades. After retirement at 82, he taught in the Oasis Continuing Education program, classes in Freedom, Slavery, and the Buddha, where he eventually met Ellen Harootunian who was to become the last love of his life. Bill was the author of 35 scholarly articles and 12 books including the award winning Dictionary Philosophy and Religion; Eastern and WesternThought, The Ascent from Below, Philosophers Speak of God (with Hartshorne), Process and Divinity (with Freemen), Values, Freedom among others. Accruing many awards, he did post-doc research at Oxford in '52, was on the U.S. Committee for UNESCO in '63, Ford Foundation grant in '67, Fulbright Lecturer in '71, one of the first delegates of professors to visit China in '79, among many other honors. One of his outstanding achievements was to establish the Emeritus Center at UAlbany, which has become a model for retired faculty and staff for the whole SUNY system. Taking decades of persistence to establish, he became its founding president. The center was ultimately dedicated to and named for him, his father and his son, all named William Lewis Reese. He established grants for emeriti projects in the three voices: teaching, research and service, and provided an endowment for the support of the center. It's not an exaggeration to say that all who knew Bill loved him. His determination and hard work didn't diminish his good nature. His engaging smile is readily brought to mind. There are not many like Bill; would that there were more. A private memorial service is planned. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a gift to The William Reese, Ph.D Emeritus Center at the University at Albany. Please make checks payable to The UAlbany Foundation and mail to 1400 Washington Ave., UAB 226, Albany, NY 12222. Or, gifts may be made online at www.albany.edu/give. Note in the "Comments" box your gift is for the William Reese Emeritus Center.
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Published in Albany Times Union from Sept. 28 to Oct. 1, 2017