Spellman Fund - Memories of Bill
PROFESSOR WILLIAM E. SPELLMAN
Coe College 1970-1997
George Baker Professor of Economics and Business Administration 1984-1997
Chairman of the Business Administration and Economics Department 1980 to 1994
Assistant Football Coach 1973, 1974, 1983-1997
Director of Athletics 1991-1992
"I was a sophomore when Bill Spellman arrived at Coe (Fall of 1970). I enrolled in both his Introductory Micro and Comparative Economic Systems classes. I was captivated by his love of the subject matter, and the enthusiasm with which he transmitted his knowledge to students.
By the time I graduated, I had taken every course Bill taught (including January Terms - one year there were only three of us, so we met in a booth in the PUB instead of a classroom!).
Bill Spellman motivated me to pursue graduate study in Finance (which involves heavy doses of Economics). He prepared me well.
Every time I go into a classroom, I take a little Bill Spellman with me. My students are fortunate I had Bill Spellman as a mentor.
Friend and former student
"Bill Spellman was a student of mine at Baker University. He was the outstanding student of economics. He loved football. Once I saw a Baker game in which the linemen had opened a big hole and Bill ran a good 10 yards. Monday morning, I told Bill that if the linemen could open a hole like that for me, I could gain 5 or 10 yards. Bill said, 'Why don't you suit up this week and line up in my position of a running back, and let's see what you could do.' I declined the honor. Bill was a good student and a good friend of mine at Baker University and Texas Tech."
Thomas K. Kim
Friend and former instructor
"I remember walking to Spellman's funeral with the famous quote, 'The light has gone out of our lives and there is darkness everywhere,' playing in my head. I remember my mind was overloaded with emotions; clouded with disconnected vignettes of laughter, of books, of nurturing, of being hit by him in racquetball.
I remembered walking into his office as a freshman, when all I could see through the overgrown plants and the cigarette smoke was a beard. He had just looked quizzically at me from behind the plants, and said, "darn, you DO have big ears."
I remembered the pride on his face when he saw me in my graduation gown three years later.
I remembered laying on a hospital bed in Nashville, after a near fatal car crash two years later. There he was at my bedside, looking at me, with deep sadness in his eyes. 'Let's go for a walk,'” he had said. When I tried to explain that the doctor thought I may never walk again, he just stuttered those life altering words, 'what the #%$ do doctors know.' Off we went for a walk, with him holding me up.
He gave us so much of himself when we were little more than children. He always stood by us when the chips were down, yet never asked anything in return. The light did go out of our lives June 1, 1997."
"My least fond memory of Spellman is the smirk on his face after he hit me on my rear end in Racquetball. The first two or three times he hit me he'd smirk and apologize. The next 200-300 times, he'd just smirk."
Friend and former student
"Dr. Spellman required a detailed paper for his Labor Econ class. I chose to write on the Teamsters. He encouraged me to travel to Iowa City to do the research, which I did. I poured through hours of McClelland Committee hearing micro-fiche, and came away with a very poor opinion of Bobby Kennedy. When I saw Doc next, I asked him what he thought. He simply said, 'Bobby Kennedy was an %$#*&*#.' I just laughed my butt off, and never forgot it...and we'll never forget him! "
Friend and former student
"I knew Bill Spellman for 37 of his 55 great years on this planet. Our relationship began in college as fraternity brothers, roommates, and football teammates. Our friendship deepened and, for seven straight years while I was superintendent in Cedar Rapids, he and I partnered in weekly bridge battles against our wives (Donna and Stacy).
Over the years, I have lost a number of friends and associates, but there is nobody I miss more than Bill. My thoughts often drift to him when I need a great laugh, inspiration, or just good memories. His heart and soul were boundless. With Donna by his side, he shared himself in more ways than many of us will ever know, all the way from raising his grandkids to assisting his students, counseling his friends, and laughing with his companions. He lived with health problems all his life, but most people never knew of his pain. His intelligence and scholarship were "off the scale," as were his sense of humor, joke playing, and enjoyment of life. He was one of the finest football players I have ever known, and he had a keen grasp of both the art and science of coaching the game.
All that said, he was never ego-driven or ostentatious, and, many times, his behavior fooled people who didn’t know him. Because he was so open and guileless, he was viewed as fair game for many skits and jokes, and he delighted in returning the pranks at a higher level to the initiators. We cried together, laughed together, fought together, and thought together. I wish my heart and soul had half the depth that his so routinely displayed.
Bill Spellman was a special person...one of the original good guys. It was a privilege to be his friend, and I am a better person for having known him."
"There are too many stories about racquetball ('I'm sorry but I tried to go around you.'), road trips ('If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there but Billy, that's the third time we've passed that same ^%$&ing building.') , and pranks (some say childish, we always preferred child-like). But through all the peaks and troughs, the one constant was laughter. Full-bodied, side-splitting, I-can't-take-it-anymore laughter. That's what kept us sane all those years ago, and that's what keeps Bill alive in our thoughts now."
"Oh, the stories I could tell....:)"
"I'll always remember working on my honor's thesis early in the morning. Like all good econ students, I put my thesis off until late in my senior year, and ended up having to work through the night on several occasions. One morning, at about 6 a.m., Spellman snuck in and yelled "What the #$%*@ are you doing!!!!" Scared the hell out of me.
I also remember blowing an intermediate micro exam. I was running onto the practice field the day I got the test back, and Spellman yelled, "Hey Wimmer I thought you were smart?" He was more colorful than that. Because of that, I actually started working on the class for an hour after every meeting, and learned a bunch of micro. By the way, Spellman was not teaching the class, it was a guy with a 1-year appointment who was filling in while you were on sabbatical.
Spellman knew how to get you working. Made a big difference in my life.”
Brad Wimmer '88
"Picture a kid coming into college, nervous as many are, but with a wife and new baby along for the ride. It would be all too easy for someone in that situation to struggle with the new environment: 4+ hours from home, the new academic challenges that all freshmen face, and trying to be a good husband and father at 18. That was me in the fall of 1980...then Doc Spellman came into my life.
I was in his macro class the first term and, as was the case with so many of his students, we quickly formed a bond. He was a mentor on many levels for me. He helped me be the best student I could be (went on to be his T.A., graduated magna cum laude, Richter Scholar); a better friend to others because of the way he treated me with laughter and genuine concern for what was right for me (outside of the racquetball court of course, where he was his usual pain in the $** self); and a better father and husband (I remember the tube steaks and volleyball at his house, and the obvious love he had for his family).
I don't know what my experience at Coe would have been like if he hadn't been there, but I am certain that I would have left those four years far less a man in every sense of the word. Doc was one-of-a-kind, and his legacy lives on in the many people who he touched in so many ways."
Mike Hood '84
Friend and former student
A great individual. The best grandfather anybody could have. Truly a gift from God.
Nicole Crosswhite Stevens
I remember sitting in the front row of my first class with him (probably the center chair of the front row, since I was a diligent student). I watched Bill scribbling across the chalkboard (which no one could read), swearing, passionate about macroeconomics I. Early on at Coe decided that I wanted that - I wanted to be him - the swearing, messy office, football coach, economist. The football coach part was ultimately impractical (given no skills or interest in the sport), but I am still working on the rest. Bill, thank you for being such a role model and mentor.