Wabash Remembers Professor Peeblesby Jim Amidon • January 6, 2012
Wabash College is saddened by the passing of long-time and beloved Professor of Religion Hall Peebles, who died Thursday at the age of 81. A native of Augusta, Georgia, Hall taught at Wabash from 1958 until his retirement from the College in 1998.
The man students referred to as “Yahweh” because of his dramatic (and precise) Old Testament lectures was graduated from the University of Georgia with a philosophy major. He attended Yale University, where he received his bachelor’s of divinity degree, and his master’s and Ph.D. in theology.
In 1991, the National Association of Wabash Men named him an Honorary Alumnus. He was also the recipient of the McLain-McTurnan-Arnold Excellence in Teaching Award.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Emma, who passed away in 2009. Survivors include their sons, David, John, and Mark.
Dr. Peebles was a frequent Chapel speaker and preached Sunday worship services in the Chapel throughout his career. His lectures on the Old Testament were broadcast on local cable television. He was also an expert on Far-Eastern religions. “His knowledge of Daoism, Confucianism, Legalism, and Buddhism bring Wabash College students closer to a cultural understanding of China and Japan,” said Dean of the College Paul McKinney in 1984.
Born January 9, 1930, Hall and his wife, Emma, had three sons, David, John, and Mark. Arriving at the College as an instructor in the religion department, he received tenure in 1964 and was named a full professor in 1977. In 1980, he was named the Edgar Evans Professor of Religion. “In appointing Professor Peebles to the Evans Chair of Religion, the College again recognizes distinguished teaching,” said then-Dean Vic Powell. “For over 20 years, the Old Testament and its prophets have come alive through the teaching and particularly the lecturing of Professor Peebles.”
“His lectures were absolutely outstanding in their clear organization, minute presentation, ability to engage students, and with a precision that few of us had,” said his long-time colleague Raymond B. Williams. “His mannerisms of getting out the handkerchief, the tapping of the watch, and ending the lecture right before the bell rang were legendary. I recall a time when I sat in on one of his lectures, which was brilliant. At the end of the class, I sneaked a peek at a small sheet of paper from which he gave the lecture. There were but five words on it.”
He was celebrated and even legendary for the grace in which he served as Secretary of the Faculty. He also served as chairman of the religion department and was a co-chair of Cultures and Traditions. In 1988, Dr. Peebles presented the Ninth Annual LaFollette Lecture in the Humanities: “Heaven, Hell, and Holy War.” But perhaps his most beloved remarks were his spirited Monon Bell pep talks, and in particular, his “Tribe of Dan” speech, which did more to inspire 800 men to laugh like children than to take to the gridiron with appropriate intensity.
“He had a remarkable mind, a remarkable generosity of spirit, and a remarkable example of a style of gentlemanly behavior,” added Dr. Williams. “No one could copy it, but we all could recognize it. He was beloved because he was so special, unique. As the Scripture says, ‘As wise as a serpent and as harmless as a dove.’”
He was a prolific scholar, authoring scores of book reviews and journal articles. In 2005, he published The Last Judgment and World Religions (Polyglot). “Two generations of students have known Hall Peebles as the best lecturer at Wabash College, a master at presenting vast ranges of material in clear and fascinating form,” said the late William C. Placher ’70. “Readers of [The Last Judgment] will find what his students recognized—here is a writer who combines the fruits of a lifetime of study of the world’s religions with a marvelously accessible style. This is not only an important book, it’s a delight to read.”
Williams said that Peebles had as “close to a photographic memory as anyone I’ve ever known.” He said Peebles’ large library was always close to mind, and that he could locate specific passages in texts after a brief pause for recollection. “I never knew if that pause was because he was thinking things through or if it was to downplay the greatness of his memory.”
Dr. Peebles traveled throughout the world later in his career, trekking the Pilgrim’s Road from Bordeaux, France to Santiago, Spain, the Silk Road in China, and the Killing Fields of Cambodia. Among the first Americans to visit Cambodia after the genocide, Dr. Peebles said, “I wanted to see how Buddhism had fared under the Khmer Rouge, but I was not prepared for the impact that the Killing Fields and museum of genocide were going to have on me. It was very raw, you had the feeling that the wounds had not healed.”
In 1998 on the occasion of his retirement, the Indianapolis Association of Wabash Men honored Dr. Peebles with its Lifetime Achievement Award. In presenting the award, alumnus Mike Shaver said, “As we stand here today, the miracle of Wabash lies in her ability to inspire greatness in successive generations, and the role of each is to move the bar higher. You have shared yourself with four generations of us, from saint to sinner… And we send you from here this night, with the sum of the wishes of all our hearts, that you and Emmy enjoy another hundred years together on this earth, and to thank you deeply for what you have given us for the last 40.”
“Students are, I think, in the long run never wrong about the quality of teachers,” said Placher. “So I have to take the students' nickname for Hall—Yahweh—seriously. And he does have much in common with the Lord of the Hebrew Scriptures. He is, in the words of the first chapter of the book of the prophet Joel, gracious, merciful, and slow to anger.”
Dr. Peebles was a member of the American Theological Association, the Society of Biblical Literature, and served as president of the Indiana Academy of Religion. He received a Ford Foundation Faculty Fellowship to conduct research at Yale University and later did research in Switzerland.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
|Great artilce, thank you again for writing.|
posted by Mauve (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 01/24/12 07:15 AM
|We need more inisgths like this in this thread.|
posted by Emily (email@example.com) on 01/21/12 10:53 PM
|Free info like this is an apple from the tree of knowdegle. Sinful?|
posted by Christiana (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 01/20/12 09:36 PM
|The passing of another man who influenced me at Wabash! Makes one feel the passage of time. Hall was one of those gentlemen who, once you met him, you never forgot him. His classes and any discourse one had with him was truly something to cherish. You will be missed and you are "Some Little Giant!"|
posted by Tom Potter '86 (email@example.com) on 01/09/12 07:52 AM
|I remember Dr. Peebles with great fondness! I was a religion major and especially recall Rel. 4, Asian Religion, and my Senior Seminar with Hall. He had a gentlemanly way of putting us at ease to share our thoughts and the power to elevate our thoughts simultaneously. I loved him and still do! Likewise Eric Dean, Bill Placher and Raymond Williams. Raymond, I hope you will be well for years to come. I wish peace and gratitude to all of Hall's family and friends. Sincerely, Denis|
posted by Denis Kelly '84 (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 01/08/12 08:14 AM
|Dr. I. Hall Peebles, in "slipping the surly bonds of Earth," has only moved closer to God. Already God's messenger to so many on this small globe, he has gone Home. I remember well his classes, and even now I recall his speech and inflection as he taught me so much about faith, something really quite profound and something which I treasure. I still have my Religion notes, and have used them often in Sunday School classes. Remarkably, it's been 35 years since I sat in a class at Wabash, yet I hear his voice still. May that echo never fade. Passed at 82. R.I.P.|
posted by Donald B. Stinnette (email@example.com) on 01/07/12 11:36 PM
|Dr. Peebles was a gentleman and scholar. I am far better off for knowing him. I loved the man!
Sometime or other, I forget the year, the NAWM honored Dr. Peebles with the Honorary Alumnus Award. In those days the award was a deep, dark secret, as it should be now. To get him to come to the Alumni Banquet, I asked him to give the prayer before dinner. He did!
A life well lived--RIP Hall>
Gordon Colson '58|
posted by gordon colson (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 01/07/12 05:01 PM
|Not only did Dr. Peebles (after working at the College for a year or so, he always insisted I call him Hall, but old habits are hard to break) give me an entirely new perspective on the Old and New Testaments, but opened my eyes to a whole new spectrum of thought in his Rel 4 Asian Religions survey. Not a day of the three years I lived in China went by without thanking him for the foundation he helped me build. A true southern gentleman, and a classic gem of a human being. Does a dog have a Buddha nature? "Wu!" We'll miss you Hall. Namaste.|
posted by Scott C. Quick 88 (email@example.com) on 01/07/12 01:42 PM
|Hall was a wonderful man -- I feel privileged to have known him. He was very kind and encouraging to young faculty members, as I was fortunate enough to experience personally. And I especially appreciated his love and support of the arts at Wabash.|
posted by James Fisher (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 01/07/12 12:40 PM
|We are all better men for having had the privilege to learn at the feet of this beloved Wabash icon and intellectual giant. And what a privilege it was, and continues to be, because his teaching imbued within us an intellectual curiosity and passion that continues and grows throughout our lives. What a great guy, amazing professor and some Little Giant. RIP Yahweh, and thank you!|
posted by Mark Scott, 89 (email@example.com) on 01/07/12 12:01 AM
|I decided to become a religion major after taking a course in the Old Testament with this man. He blessed me with his teaching in several other subjects while I was at Wabash including a course on Buddhism and Taoism. Lessons I learned from him in these subjects resonate in my life to this day. I find it sweetly ironic that on the day of his passing, my Pawtucket facility was being blessed by three Buddhist monks and that as a result of knowledge acquired from Professor Peebles I was able to share with my children the meaning of much of the imagery in the ceremony as well as the nuances of what it is to be a Bodhisattva and the power of the Amida Buddha. Such is the power of the liberal arts and great rofessors who teach it. Godspeed Professor Ignatius Hall Peebles, may you Rest in Peace.|
posted by Zaheer Shah (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 01/06/12 11:04 PM
|Remembering Professor Peebles fondly. He'd begin each class rather formally, chin placed in the fist of his hand. He'd look at the class and at the Phi Delt Dog, offer a slight bow, then say, "Gentlemen, General..." and class would begin.|
posted by Adam Kirtley '95 (email@example.com) on 01/06/12 07:31 PM
|In reading the description of Hal's career, it is hard for me to believe that he had only been at Wabash for about 3 or 4 years when I had a course with him. I was a biology major but his reputation preceeded him so I took his course on eastern religions. He was absolutely the best lecturer that I had during my four years and the memories of how he lectured helped me during the years that I struggled to be a college prof. in the early years of my career.|
posted by Dennnis Whigham 66 (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 01/06/12 04:13 PM
|In the fall of 1958, Hall Peebles and the class of 1962 arrived on the campus of Wabash College. At that time of course, Dr. Peebles was not yet well known on the campus. The Philosophy and Religion Department was already distinguished by the presence of Harry cotton and Eric Dean. I was a Religion Minor and therefore became one of the first students to be assigned to Dr. Peebles as faculty advisor. I was amazed that someone barely 10 years older than our class members could know so much and present it so well. During my four years, I took nearly every class Dr. Peebles taught because it was so easy to learn from him. He made you want to hear and learn more every day just by the captivating way he prepared and presented his lectures. He will never be forgotten by those of us were privileged to share all or a portion of his first four years at Wabash. We of the class of 1962 were looking forward to seeing him again at our class Banquet during our 50th year reunion this year. Unfortunately, that won't happen. However, I am confident that reunion won't be canceled...Just delayed. Thank you Dr. Peebles, Some Little Giant.|
posted by Terry G. Fewell (email@example.com) on 01/06/12 02:26 PM
|Because of the time I spent with Dr. Peebles I learned to read, study, and interpret the Bible. I am a Christian, a Sunday School teacher, and by no means a mindless follower for having been blessed with the tutelage of Hall Peebles.|
posted by Chris Cotton '91 (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 01/06/12 02:03 PM