Converse Mourns the Passing of Dr. Bill Kimball, Professor Emeritus of English
July 09, 2020
Dr. William (Bill) Kimball, professor emeritus of English, passed away on June 24, 2020, at the age of 97.
For 23 years Dr. Kimball could be seen riding his bicycle to Converse’s campus; this was nothing out of the ordinary, as he took incredible care of himself and his physical health. Despite the daily 20-mile round trip bike ride to and from campus, Dr. Kimball would also run laps around the tennis courts with a running club. Deep ruts in the ground around the perimeter of the courts formed as a result.
As a young man, Dr. Kimball served in the Army and taught at Mary Baldwin and Limestone College, serving as dean, before coming to Converse. Awarded several Fulbright Fellowships, Dr. Kimball was well-traveled, visiting Finland and Pakistan with his family. Dr. Kimball and his family were so enamored with the saunas in Finland that they installed one in their Spartanburg home. While in Pakistan, the family explored the Silk Road in the region and Dr. Kimball began studying Arabic in his free time.
During his tenure at Converse, Dr. Kimball had the opportunity to travel abroad to London with his longtime friend, colleague, and neighbor, Dr. Jeffrey Willis, and many students who remember the experiences fondly. His daughter, Alison Kimball ‘80, relishes her memory of the opportunity to travel with college students as a young girl in tow with her father.
“Bill was committed to intellectual pursuits and loved learning.”
Dr. Tulloh, professor emeritus of English and longtime friend and colleague, said “Bill was committed to intellectual pursuits, and loved learning. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and active in Gamma Sigma Iota at Converse. He could never understand why all students did not always share his commitment to excellence, an attitude which challenged some and upset others.” His high ideals and passion for learning have made a lasting impression on Converse’s campus and he enjoyed helping his students excel.
While at Converse, Dr. Kimball and his colleagues would participate in a “Faculty Forum” in which they would take turns cooking suppers in the Cleveland Alumnae House and fellowship with one another. They would listen to each other discuss their research and provide feedback; many faculty found this process very lively and very helpful. The sense of community Converse provides can still be felt on campus today among students, faculty, and staff.
His daughter Alison recalled sitting in on one of her father’s classes, noting that his entire persona was different as he lectured on Beowulf. Having practically grown up on campus with her siblings, Alison felt that as a “professor’s kid” she would have to “stay under the radar” to avoid being sent to the housing board and risk her father finding out.
“In the summers, he worked with the Converse paint crew to repaint the interior of College buildings.”
Dr. Kimball was also a wonderful farmer and cultivated impressive vegetable and fruit gardens, often giving excess produce to colleagues at Converse. As a child of the Depression, Dr. Kimball was focused on avoiding waste and repairing and reusing as long as possible. In the summers, he worked with the Converse paint crew to repaint the interior of College buildings, joined by many children of faculty and staff including his own.
Within two weeks, Converse mourns the loss of both Dr. Kimball and Dr. Jeffrey Willis, both incredible testaments to the importance of lifelong learning and the power of a Converse education.