The way he comported himself was in keeping with the character that he had displayed all along, so that in this final years and months there was the same kind of integrity that his philosophical mentor Socrates had displayed, the dignity with which he bore his suffering. He was continuing to teach and I said to the Trustees that Bob was such an exemplary teacher and such an influential member of the faculty I thought it would be a splendid statement for the college to award him an Honorary Degree.

And I asked Bob to come in and see me and I told him. And with that nice smile on his face that was always there, he looked right into my face and said, “Now John, you wouldn’t be offering me an honorary degree if I weren’t dying, would you?” I said, “Bob, I wouldn’t be offering you an honorary degree now if you weren’t in the condition that you’re in, but the fact that you’re a very sick man in itself would not have been enough to make me want to give you an honorary degree. We want to honor you because you’re a great teacher, you’re a great member of the college community and this would be something that would be meaningful for many, many people.” And he smiled, nodded his head and said, “O.K. That’s fine.”

John Chandler,
former Williams College president