Since one alumnus requested recollections of reunion, I will do my best to supply some over the course of the next few days (as my free time on my drive west permits).

I had many wonderful moments, chances to reconnect with old friends and make (at least) one new friend, but the one that sticks most in my mind right now is my last meeting in Williamstown this past weekend, that with the man who taught the best course I ever had — and not just at Williams.  On my way out of town, I stopped at the home on Southworth Street of the outspoken octogenarian emeritus professor of Political Science, Kurt Tauber.

Ever the gracious host that Marxist gourmand, who first introduced me to such conservative thinkers as Eric Voegelin and Leo Strauss, may walk a little slower than he once did, but he is as sharp as ever.  He engaged me on the subject of my dissertation as he had once challenged me to defend my conservative ideas.  Few people have as great a capacity to hold strong opinions and respect those holding contrary views as does Mr. Tauber.

More than anything, Tauber valued civil discourse, regularly attending lectures, often asking probing questions, always engaging anyone willing to offer a well-thought-out opinion.  He very much embodied the ideal of Williams academics.  (Do hope President Falk takes an afternoon this summer to sit down with this former chair of the Political Science Department.)

I was not the only conservative student who loved Kurt Tauber.  He had fans across the political spectrum.  And he was most interested not just in our ideas, but in our experiences at Williams, asking probing questions about student life and acting to improve the intellectual atmosphere at the college.

What a great man!

Let me conclude with a story that those who know me have heard on (at least) ten thousand occasions.  It is, to borrow an expression from James A. Garfield, my particular Log moment.   

I had struggled with our assignment in Eric Voegelin’s The New Science of Politics.  

In class the following, Tauber so successfully unpacked this complicated text that I thought he was promoting the conservative thinker’s ideas.  Afterwards, I approached him and said that now that I understood Voegelin’s ideas, I was inclined to his way of thought.  Tauber was delighted, saying something to the extent that that would be a good path to pursue.

Then, I asked, knowing your Marxist inclinations, what do you think of Voegelin?

Without pause, he replied, “It’s bullshit, Dan, all bullshit.”  And then walking back to Stetson on a crisp fall day, he explained why it was all “bullshit” while I contested his conclusions, with arguments I was able to forge in large part due to the instruction he had just offered.  We continued our conversation in his office.  

When a colleague interrupted him to ask if he were going to the Department meeting, I saw a look of disappointment in his face.  He would have rather engaged in spirited conversation with a student.

I was glad to see Mr. Tauber this weekend, delighted that he as as sharp as ever and hopeful to visit him again when I am next in Billsville.

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