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Influential Philosophy Professor to be Recognized with Legacy Endowment

March 28, 2022

William L. King

Idaho State University Professor of Philosophy Dr. William L. King, who was largely responsible for the very existence of the philosophy program at ISU, has been recognized by the University and the community with a legacy endowment in his name.

Editor's Note: The article below was written and submitted by the King family to help Idaho State honor a longstanding member of the University community.

Idaho State University Professor of Philosophy Dr. William L. King, who was largely responsible for the very existence of the philosophy program at ISU, has been recognized by the University and the community with a legacy endowment in his name.

Such endowments allow the College of Arts and Letters to attract and recruit outstanding students and faculty to ISU, while honoring those who have given the most to the community through their life and work on campus.

King taught at ISU for 34 years. He graduated with a master's degree from Harvard followed by a PhD from Stanford, studying with Donald Davidson, the top philosopher in America at the time. He then arrived at ISU in 1960 to teach humanities courses, followed by English courses and most notably the first philosophy course to be offered at ISU. He was a tireless and determined advocate for the Philosophy Program on campus, shepherding in Philosophy 101, and later 151 as a college-wide requirement. He believed in the practical importance of well-taught philosophy courses for well-prepared students. Under his direction the program attracted distinguished scholars and teachers from all over the country and from abroad. The program produced an array of high-profile academic books and articles, including many of his own publications.

 He is remembered by his colleagues for both his enduring passion and sense of humor in energizing the department. During regular department meetings on Thursday afternoons, which took place in Bill’s office, faculty members fondly remember being comfortably seated or lying on an enormous green sofa.

 “There was something festive about those meetings – a sense of friendship and shared commitments,” Dr. Carl Levenson said. 

His friend and colleague Dr. Jonathan Westphal wrote of Bill “I learned a lot from him about teaching and academic work. We collaborated on work – all his inspiration – on sentences using the English word ‘mind.’ We also worked on aesthetics and other topics. We attended what turned into a hilarious Aristotelian Society conference in Reading in England together. The trans-Atlantic academics there had the utmost respect for Bill and his quiet well-placed comments. He was the kindest and the gentlest friend you could have. I was in awe of his insight and intelligence, and of his feeling for humanity. This came out particularly in his courses on John Stuart Mill and utilitarianism.”

A long-time director of the philosophy department Dr. Russell Wahl said “Bill King had a lot to do with the Philosophy Program surviving. He kept the Program operating at a high professional level”.

What complemented Dr. King’s academic talent was his unending curiosity of the cosmos, and lifelong quest to capture the aesthetic beauty of the world around him. One could say his spiritual life was to embed himself in the natural world with camera and/or telescope in hand. He developed a deep technical knowledge of both telescopes, and cameras being mostly self-taught, and trained with Ansel Adams at his Yosemite Photography Workshop. His aesthetic sense was subtle and profound and was manifest in his own work in fine art photography. He maintained a professional level darkroom in his own home from which he created hundreds of stunning works of art. These works were shown in art galleries in New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Utah and on the ISU campus. From his personal artistic endeavors came a natural inclination to help students understand the philosophical importance of aesthetics. An Aesthetics of Photography course he developed was described as having “opened our students to how image making was so much more than a simple depiction of subject matter,” Dr. Tim Frazier, retired chair of the Mass Communication department, said. “All were enriched by his heartfelt passion for the medium.”

 “‘His clarity of mind and artistic gift; his elegant simple bearing; his kindness and integrity – they serve as a challenge and an example,” Dr. Levenson said.

Dr. King’s sincerest wish would be that future students could benefit from his endowment in a way that would carry forward the many seeds of understanding and inspiration he laid during his career. Although he will be greatly missed, his legacy of integrity, humility, and scholarship will continue to touch the lives of everyone who becomes a part of ISU.

For more information about the William King Scholarship Endowment Fund, please contact Sonia Gomez, Director of Development, at (208) 373 1989, soniagomez@isu.edu.



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