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Buchanan Bash is still a smash
Apr 03, 2013

Olivetians continue to celebrate a favorite professor a decade after his passing

By Linda Jo Scott

Bill Buchanan, one of our favorite professors at the college, died in India in early 2003, just weeks before his 80th birthday. He was suffering from congestive heart failure even before he went there at Christmas time, but in spite of his bad health, he wanted to make a last pilgrimage to a country he loved deeply.

We had a big birthday party all planned for his return, complete with what he loved best, music, poetry, good food and rich conversation, but sadly we had to plan a memorial service instead. The service, which took place at the United Church of Christ in Douglas, was unforgettable, with a large crowd of his students and friends recollecting memories of Bill, reading poems, playing music and singing for over two hours.

Just 10 years later, in March, many of us went to a special luncheon at the college in Bill’s memory. It was organized by Marty Jennings ‘67, director of alumni relations and a former student of Bill’s. Jim Briney ‘69 presided, recalling his wonderful experiences as a student and friend of Bill, and telling us about the progress of the fund established in Bill’s memory, which supports educational, cultural and other charitable programs, projects and activities on campus.

Norm Wheeler ‘73, another of Bills admiring students, read some of Bill’s poems and told some great stories about his classes, his pets and, most of all, his generous spirit.

Though I was never Bill’s student, he and I became close friends and colleagues back in 1978 when I moved to a house just across the street from him. We both taught in the English Department, and though he left the college just two years later, we stayed in close touch until his death. I was incredibly fortunate to go to his cottage on Lake Michigan every summer, and my friend Juli Csiszar 83 and I inherited his bright and loyal dog, whom he had named “Hope.”

Another speaker at the luncheon was Ray Diffenderfer who, though he only met Bill near the end of his life, was a faithful caregiver to him. Even though he was the one giving help to Bill, he seemed to have been greatly enriched by Bill in those last few months of his life.

We almost felt as though Bill was at the luncheon with us, enjoying old stories and memories and catching up on the lives of his friends.

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