A memorial service was held December 6 in the Pioneer Chapel on the Wabash College campus.
“Bill was one of the most influential and revered professors at Wabash,” said College President Patrick White. “In a long line of great teachers, mentors, and scholars, Bill will be remembered as one of the legends. As a student, faculty member, leader, and role model for students, faculty, and all of us who love Wabash, Bill Placher was our teacher and will remain an exemplar of the best imagination of the mind, heart, and spirit of the College.”
A summa cum laude graduate of Wabash in 1970, Placher was elected into Phi Beta Kappa and Eta Sigma Phi. He earned his master’s degree in philosophy from Yale University in 1974 and completed his Ph.D. a year later, also from Yale.
Placher was in his 34th year as one of Wabash’s most popular teachers. He began teaching as an instructor while pursuing his graduate degrees during the 1972-73 and 1974-75 academic years, and was named an assistant professor in 1975. He rose to full professor in 1984 and became the LaFollette Distinguished Professor in the Humanities in 1999.
He served Wabash in literally dozens of capacities. Placher chaired the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Wabash from 1996-2002. He was also the Chair of the Advisory Committee of the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion.
He was the author of 13 books, including A History of Christian Theology, Unapologetic Theology, Narratives of a Vulnerable God, The Domestication of Transcendence, Jesus the Savior, and The Triune God. He was an editor at large of Christian Century, and, with Amy Plantinga Pauw, one of the two editorial consultants for Westminster John Knox Press’ forthcoming 36-volume Theological Commentary on the Bible. A sought-after lecturer, Placher was a writer of many essays, articles, and reviews.
He was a member and elder of the Wabash Avenue Church in Crawfordsville. Early members of that church helped found Wabash College 176 years ago.
In 2002, the American Academy of Religion named him the best teacher in the country, honoring him with the Excellence in Teaching Award.
He was born in Peoria, Ill., on April 28, 1948, to Carl and Louise Placher. He was preceded in death by his parents.