William Boardman Professor Emeritus of Philosophy 1939-2009

Carolyn Schultz

The Lawrence community mourns the loss of Professor Emeritus of Philosophy William Boardman, who passed away Tuesday, April 28, in Appleton. He was an admired and influential member of the Lawrence faculty for 37 years. He was also a devoted father, a loving grandfather and a loyal friend.
Boardman, a native of Springfield Ill., joined the philosophy department at Lawrence in 1965 following graduate school at the University of Minnesota. He retired in 2002 and devoted his life to his family and to leisurely reading, a pursuit he did not have time for when he was teaching.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Boardman became very involved in the anti-Vietnam War movement in the Fox River Valley. He persuaded other professors to participate in a protest march down College Avenue and to take part in sit-ins at draft boards. He even served as a draft counselor, calling it is “civic, moral duty” to help young men understand all of their options. On campus, he organized special seminars for students to explore the topic of “just wars.”
Boardman’s favorite memories from his time at Lawrence were of his Viking Room chats – open discussions organized during the late 1980s by Boardman and biology professor Michael LaMarca. The chats covered classroom topics as well as important issues of the time.
Boardman’s primary interest was in the philosophy of law and ethics. During his time at Lawrence, he became involved in biomedical ethics and spent more than 12 years working with the Appleton Medical Center exploring this interest with community members.
On his retirement in 2002, Boardman reflected on his time at Lawrence and said, “If my students found my courses useful in their lives and careers, then I’ll have had a good legacy.”Reflections on his life from
colleagues and students
on page 2
“Professor Boardman’s legacy is substantial and important, and the Lawrence community remembers him with great admiration.” – Jill Beck, university president, in her letter to campus.

“Beyond celebrating Bill as a great teacher, I want to say more personally that he was a great person, one of the kindest and most helpful friends one could ever hope to have. [It was] the little things, the sort of things we take for granted most of the time … that constitute what Wordsworth called:

‘that best portion of a good man’s life,
His little, nameless, unremembered, acts
Of kindness and of love.’

Bill’s life was overflowing with such things. But by those they touched, such acts will never be unremembered.” – Bertrand Goldgar, professor of English
“Boardman was a great teacher and a good guy. I took every course he offered and wished I could have taken more. His lectures often featured detailed examples – complete with illustrative gestures – in which Dreher would meet a violent end, whether from a gun or meat-grinder; retelling those stories was a favorite pastime of many of his students. He will be missed.” – Ben Bradley ’93, assistant professor of philosophy at Syracuse University.

“Bill Boardman was a kind man, who cared deeply about his students and philosophy – and about Lawrence. For Bill, the goal of philosophical discussion was not winning and losing, but, rather, getting clear about things and, maybe, with luck discerning the truth … he tried, and often succeeded in passing these values on to his students.” – Thomas Ryckman, professor of philosophy

“He would regularly have a cigarette and a pipe going simultaneously while teaching. He frequently introduced gruesome, violent scenarios on his way to making some point … they made his classes fun. I now use similar examples routinely [in my teaching].” – Mark Lukas ’92, assistant professor of philosophy at Longwood University

“He worked hard to put his views on justice into practice, sometimes at considerable personal cost. He served as the adviser to the LU student chapter of Students for a Democratic Society, at a time – during the Vietnam War – when SDS was considered a radical fringe group: Bill gave them very sensible and mature advice. He showed both wisdom and courage.” – John Dreher, professor of philosophy