When I enrolled in Chapman University in 1999 as a transfer student from Orange Coast College, one of the first people to greet me was Don Will, a political science professor. He was involved in the school's Global Citizen Initiative, a campuswide effort to get students interested in the world beyond frats and sororities and a direct connection to Chapman's historical roots as a sleepy liberal Christian institution. Even then, Will was a campus legend: a man who made it a point to reach out to everyone, liberal and conservative, and get people interested in peace and learning without getting engaged in campus culture wars.
I never had a class with him, but many of my generation of Panthers did and still speak of him with awe. And now we, along with the entire Chapman community, are in mourning, as Will has unexpectedly passed away. He was 65.
Here's just a part of the email sent out early this morning by Chapman Chancellor Daniele C. Struppa:
It is with a sense of great personal loss that I share the sad news of the untimely passing of Don Will, Professor of Political Science and holder of the Delp-Wilkinson Chair in Peace Studies. A member of the Chapman University faculty since 1987, Don was a pillar of our Chapman community for over twenty-five years. Without doubt, he was among the most respected and trusted people on this campus, admired for his integrity, his sense of justice, and his ability to bring people of diverse points of view together in an attitude of mutual respect. Throughout his life, in his career before Chapman as well as here, Don's work was grounded in his commitment to a life of service. His kindness, concern for others, and gentleness of spirit were legendary. A man of strong principles, Don never sought to overpower others with his views. He was as good a listener as he was a speaker, and he always sought to learn from those whose views were different than his own.
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The full email went on to detail not only Will's career, but also the enormity of the man: his "deep knowledge of the institution, his integrity, and his sense of fairness." There will be a public memorial announced soon. In the meanwhile, here's a short interview he did some years back. Our thoughts and prayers are with Will's loved ones.