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Awards / Honors

Ron Williams celebrates 45 years of service

May 6, 2010
By Paul Miller

Sometimes a long and successful career starts out on somewhat shaky ground, as philosophy Professor Ron Williams admits about the beginning of his own tenure at CSU.

Aesthetics of a long career

When philosophy Professor Ron Williams finished his course work as a doctoral candidate at Stanford 46 years ago, he had no idea what was coming next in his life.

“I was so naïve,” he says. “I finished my last class and stood out on the street corner and wondered what to do.”

Fortunately, Colorado State faculty at that time included Willard Eddy, a popular teacher and creator of the University Honors Program and the Department of Philosophy.

Genesis of philosophy

"Willard took well-considered chances and hired young people from prestigious institutions who were short of their degrees, and then he let them flower here,” Williams says. “I was in that position when I got through with my doctoral course work at Stanford.

“I heard about an opening at CSU, so I sent a handwritten letter to Willard. He made me an offer, sight unseen. So I came here in 1964 specifically to teach analytic philosophy in a department that was just breaking away from the English department.”

Williams hadn’t originally planned on a career in philosophy – he was gravitating toward physics as his métier. But when he was pursuing a physics concentration at the University of Colorado-Boulder prior to attending Stanford, he took a course outside his field for reasons he isn’t sure about to this day.

“It wasn’t easy considering the course load I already had,” he says. “David Hawkins taught a course in philosophy of science, and that was the first inkling I had that you could put physics and philosophy together.” Williams became enamored of such connections, and decided on a thesis in the philosophy of language at Stanford.

Long tenure includes chairmanship

Williams’ long tenure at CSU has included his role as chair of the department from 2000-05. “I’m really grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had to do collaborative work across the disciplines,” he says. “It’s been such a pleasure to work with people I admire.”

His scholarly pursuits have included logic, philosophy of language, philosophy of science, and more recently, aesthetics. He is co-author of Ritual Art and Knowledge, which he wrote with philosophy Professor James Boyd, a University Distinguished Teaching Scholar who recently retired.

“When Jim first came here to CSU, he noticed a statue of Shiva, a Hindu deity, on a shelf in my office,” Williams says. “I had a beginner’s interest in Indian philosophy, so when Jim began a series of study tours in India for faculty, I was one of the first people to go. He and I continued collaborating on topics such as the relationship between the arts and religious ritual, and that led to the book and other productive work.”

Inseparable research

Williams’ research over the past 25 years has been inseparable from his partnership with Boyd. “Jim contributes a lifetime of sophisticated language studies, field work, and insight into South Indian, Zoroastrian, and Shinto traditions.”

In terms of the aesthetics of family history, Williams notes that, when he was in high school, he lived next door to – and later married – a girl whose family had deep ties to Rist Canyon. Their 50th anniversary celebration is this summer.

“We’ve known each other since we were 13 years old,” he says. “Barbara’s family has roots in the area that go back to the 1880s. Her grandparents homesteaded there."

Barbara is a social worker with the Carl Rogers Institute in Rome. The Williams’ daughter, Heather, is a CSU alumna in social work who works with Barbara.

“They take care of the aesthetics of children, and I take care of the aesthetics of everything else,” Williams jokes.

Join the University community in honoring employees during Celebrate CSU Milestones at 3 p.m. today, May 6, in the Lory Student Center Main Ballroom.

The special all-University event celebrates employees who are retiring and recognizes those who have reached 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, and 45 years of service to Colorado State University.

Contact: CSU Events
Phone: (970) 491-4601