Letter writer: Remembering a dedicated teacher

'A GREAT STORYTELLER': Warren Wilson College professor John Casey taught a popular environmental ethics course for more than 20 years. Services for professor John Casey will be held Saturday, March 4, at 1 p.m. in the Warren Wilson College Chapel. Photo courtesy of Warren Wilson College
'A GREAT STORYTELLER': Warren Wilson College professor John Casey taught a popular environmental ethics course for more than 20 years. Services for professor John Casey will be held Saturday, March 4, at 1 p.m. in the Warren Wilson College Chapel. Photo courtesy of Warren Wilson College

It is my sad duty to inform your readers of the loss of a beloved member of our community. Dr. John Casey died from cancer on Feb. 24, 2017. He had been professor of philosophy at Warren Wilson College since 1991 and was still teaching classes two weeks before his death. Known by all simply as Casey, he was in many ways the soul of the college, somebody who embraced its values —the values of a deeply examined life, clear thinking, hard work, social justice and environmental stewardship. Hundreds of former students in the Asheville area remember his invigorating classes in environmental ethics, Eastern thought and alternative philosophies.

Casey was born in Kansas in 1943 and received his undergraduate degree from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He earned his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Iowa. Before coming to Warren Wilson College, Casey had a varied career teaching philosophy in colleges across the Midwest and making contemporary art furniture as sole proprietor of his business The Woodworks.

During his 26 years at Warren Wilson College, Casey served the college in many roles, as a leader of campus governance, as the chair of the Integrative Studies program, as the head of the Business Affairs Committee, as the chair of the college land use committee and as vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college.

Yet he will be remembered most as a dedicated teacher and a caring colleague. Those of us who were lucky to have offices near him will cherish memories of a great storyteller who enlivened our conversations with his stories of growing up in the 1940s and 1950s on the Great Plains, moving from town to town as his father built grain elevators throughout the region, or of his college years and political activism in the 1960s, or of the many years when he made his living in the Midwest as a skilled woodworker.

Besides hundreds of former students and grateful colleagues, Casey leaves behind his dearly loved wife Rebecca, who unselfishly opened her home to friends and students as she cared for Casey in his final days. A memorial service will be held for Casey on Saturday, March 4, at 1 p.m. at the Warren Wilson College chapel.

With sadness for the loss of a great friend,

— Philip Otterness
Warren Wilson College
Swannanoa

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