Remembering and Celebrating the Life of Ron Williams

Ron was born in Sidney Nebraska on June 24, 1935.  His parents were Hannah and Guy Williams.

Ron’s father started the early farmland co-ops in Petz, Colorado and worked with co-ops in Kansas City and in later years became the Vice President of the farmland co-op in the corporate office in Kansas City.

Ron grew up in Petz, Colorado, Kansas City, and Albuquerque, New Mexico. He went to grade school in Albuquerque and loved the Hispanic culture with which the city was and is so richly imbued.

Ron attended high school in Aurora, Colorado and graduated from Aurora High School. He was president of his class throughout his high school years and was involved in many activities.

Ron earned his undergraduate and Master degrees at the University of Colorado in Boulder. He earned his Master’s degree in Physics.

After graduating with his Master of Science, he worked at the Bureau of Standards as a Physicist. Shortly, however, because of his keen interest in aesthetics and comparative religion, Ron left Colorado for a time to earn his PhD in Philosophy at Stanford University.

Upon graduation with his PhD, Ron came to CSU as a professor in the Department of Philosophy under the tutelage of Willard O. Eddy. Ron taught in the Department of Philosophy for 45 years and was chairman of the department for six years, from 2000 through 2005.

Ron taught most everything in the department, but he mostly taught the Philosophy of Art, Aesthetics, and Analytical Philosophy. One of Ron’s favorite courses at CSU was the Vienna course. The Vienna course was a course offered for several years that pooled the wondrous talents of many professors and scholars across departments of the College of Liberal Arts. It focused on the unusually rich developments in culture that occurred in Vienna at the turn from the 19th to the 20th centuries. Participating in the development and teaching of the course were Ron, along with other faculty such as Ken Rock of History, Joe Angel from English, and Perry Ragouzis in Art.

Ron had a lifelong interest in Eastern religions and particularly in the rituals of Hinduism, Buddhism, and other religions, and some of the highlights of his life were his travels and studies with Jim Boyd in India and Japan, where they studied, filmed, and wrote on local rituals. Ron and Jim wrote and published together an award-winning book on religious ritual, Ritual Art and Knowledge: Aesthetic Theory and Zoroastrian Ritual.

Ron, Barbara, and Heather also enjoyed traveling and teaching while participating in the Semester at Sea program.

Ron, Barbara, and many friends, including Bob Baker, former professor of history at CSU, and Pat Baker, both of whom are with us today, founded and for many years guided the DeSillio school, housed in a lovely old-time school house that stood at the northwest corner of Drake and Shields before it was razed in 1975 to make room for the development of the shopping center that currently stands on this site. The DeSillio School, organized around the theories and practices of experiential education, was extremely important to Ron, as it was to Barbara, Bob and Pat Baker, and the others who worked to create the school and guide its development and curriculum. Rivendale School developed as an offshooting sprout of the Desillio School.

Ron was trained classically on the piano and enjoyed playing piano during high school, and then in later years became very interested in rock music, including the music of artists such as the Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, the Rolling Stones, Leonard Cohen, and others.

Also among Ron’s passions were art, black and white photography, and foreign films.

Ron also loved Rist Canyon, where Ron, Barbara, and Heather lived. When sadly Ron’s health began to decline some years ago, with the help of fantastic care givers, the Davis Ranch Community, and the Rist Canyon Fire Department, fortunately Ron was able to remain happily at home and at rest in Rist Canyon.

Ron passed away on October 10, 2015. He is survived by his wife, Barbara Williams, daughter, Heather Williams, and close cousins. He was preceded in death by his older brother Jack Williams, who died at birth, and by his mother Hannah Bullard Williams and father Guy Williams.

Ron was a wonderful colleague, in the Department, across the College, and throughout the University and community. He was a delightful wit and a tremendously talented, wise, and knowledgeable philosopher.  His was a gentle, quiet soul, full of wry humor and deep insights. He always has been a wonderful friend and inspiration to many across the campus and throughout the community.  Ron has embodied the soul of the true philosopher throughout his entire life.

The last I worked with Ron we served together on the College of Liberal Arts Curriculum Committee. Ron was the Department of Philosophy representative to the College Curriculum Committee.

Ron came to meetings always with that quiet, gentle, light-hearted wit and wisdom, always a bit amused and inwardly giggling at the silly bureaucratic nonsense that he knew that we must conduct – and tolerate – in order to serve well our students and faculty, though I always knew well that, internally supporting his amused, calm participation, the Ron deep within would much rather have been chatting about meaningful thoughts and ideas with his philosophical and artistic friends, colleagues, family, and conversation partners. But it is his wise amusement with and gentle tolerance of the necessary doldrums of bureaucratic process that most impressed me, then and to this day. One could always sense that he was kindly smiling on all of our nonsense while he performed well his duty as asked.

A wonderful, wise, learned, delightful, and gentle man.

A special thanks to Barbara Williams and Pat McKee for contributing to this essay.