We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee."
- Marian Wright Edelman
William E. Spellman was a man who never ignored the small daily differences that he could make. Although he may not always have been aware of it, he affected many personally and, through all that he did, would come to affect many more in different ways. Whether it was at the lectern in a classroom, on the sidelines of the football field, or at his own kitchen table, Bill Spellman was continuously opening doors and creating opportunities for the students of Coe College.
Having earned his BA from Baker University and his MA and PhD in economics from Kansas State University, Spellman joined Coe's Business Administration and Economics department in 1970. Through dedication, hard work and determination, he brought national recognition to the department serving as Chairman and the George R. Baker Professor of Economics and Business Administration. By sharing his expertise with his students, Spellman gave young minds the opportunity to succeed after college. In ways related to academics, Spellman created opportunities for student advancement by creating a Coe chapter of Omicron Delta Epsilon, an international honor society for economics, and by serving as the advisor for SACHEM, a senior men's honor society.
Had Bill's contributions ended here, he would have been remembered as a great and inspirational professor. Academia, however, was only one field in which Bill would contribute. He also donated his time to the Kohawk football team, serving as assistant coach for sixteen seasons and the offensive coordinator for nine seasons. Throughout Bill's tenure on the sidelines, his offenses often led the nation in statistical categories, the Kohawks won four Midwest Conference championships, and twice the team earned berths to the NCAA Division III playoffs. Bill was also the athletics director for one year.
But Bill Spellman's contributions would extend even further. Bill and his wife Donna frequently welcomed students into their home. Throughout the summers, students would live in the Spellman household and be treated as part of the family. In this regard, the Spellmans would affect many students on a personal level that very few professors are ever able to reach, and would give each of them an even greater opportunity to flourish.
When, in 1997, Bill suffered a fatal heart attack at the age of 55, the Coe community grieved at having lost a great professor, coach, and friend. The 1997 football season was dedicated to his honor inspiring an 8-1 record, and, in 2002, Bill was welcomed into the Athletic Hall of Fame, a notable exception to the ten year grace period that is usually observed before one may be considered for induction.
Not surprisingly, Bill is still creating opportunities for Coe College students even after his untimely death. A memorial fund that was created in his honor is currently allowing students the opportunity to conduct research and further broaden their learning experiences.
William Spellman cherished the small opportunities that he could create for his students. As a professor, football coach, advisor, and mentor, Spellman gave freely of his time and energy to help make big differences on the Coe campus.
By: Jennifer McArdle '08
Spellman Fellow '05, '06, '07