Memories of Professor Bollinger
2006. 06. 16.
June 8, 2006
A Tribute to LaMar
Given by Louie Attebery
Nampa Church of the Brethren
My recollections of LaMar go back to the fall of my sophomore year, in 1947, when he came to the College of Idaho to teach economics. Although I took no classes from him tat year, I knew who he was and heard the scuttlebutt about him. That sort of folklore thrives on college campuses, and small colleges are no exception. Barbara and I moved in to the small apartment in the upstairs of the O.J. Smith house, with just the Botkin house between the Brock-Bollinger duplex and our place. It was a kind of faculty row, for four professors lived on Dearborn in approximately every other house. They were not just professors: they were or they become icons – H.H. Hayman, O.J. Smith, Leslie Van Horn Brock, and Wendell LaMar Bollinger. If their years of teaching at the College were added, the total would be nearly a century and a half…more than 146 years. Credit LaMar with 40 years of that and perhaps two years of administration.
So we came to know LaMar and Faith as neighbors. We came to appreciate Galen and Donald as they lost or triumphed in their pursuits and captivities and escapes of or from one another or, perhaps, their mother…little tow-headed boys and very blonde mother with what I would call a Dutch-boy-bob hair-do. They were good neighbors, pleasant in visitation, cheerful in conversation.
I got better acquainted with LaMar when I enrolled in his introductory economics course, one of the most difficult courses in my undergraduate years. The subject matter was challenging, and the course had seemed to attract mathematical wizards, many of whom wished to major in economics. One such was a lad of 16, a recent high school graduate, who would prove to be LaMar's first millionaire. Over the years out of gratitude for his professor, Dick Owen donated generous portions of his great wealth to support projects and sponsor visiting lecturers in economics to enhance the College's reputation.
As a teacher, LaMar was always willing to spend time with students, and his office hours were filled in talking with advisees and discussing graduate or professional schools with the more promising students. My Class with him was a large one for the right reasons: he had a strong reputation as a good teacher, and this reputation grew over the years as his graduates met success in the most demanding graduate programs at Harvard, Stanford, the Wharton School of Business, and New York University, for example; and he made economics interesting by pointing out the human dimension of what he jokingly referred to as 'the dismal science,' quoting Thomas Carlyle's response upon reading Thomas Robert Malthus.
I must not confine my tribute to LaMar as a teacher only of economics, for he also taught accounting, business law, money and banking, investments…and whatever other courses were offered, because, you see, he was the department in those days.
Between by graduation in 1950 and our return, LaMar became very active in scouting and formed friendships that endured. I recall that T.C. Blacker was one such friend, a source of encouragement and financial support when LaMar sampled Canyon County politics briefly.
In 1961, our family returned to Caldwell where I began teaching at my alma mater. LaMar became a colleague. Our offices were next to each other, and many of our classes were in the old wooden condemned, linoleum-floored, steam-heated, noisy Commons building, one of those inexpensive World War II temporary structures that seemed to endure forever. When we could take a short break, not for coffee but for a Coke or a 7-Up, we found opportunities to share information on all manner of topics, perhaps about students I had been in school with or about his former students who had distinguished themselves in graduate school or who had earned an important government job or some other distinction.
As a faculty member he served his turn on committees, boards, and councils of many different kinds. I don't know how many curriculum committees he served or how many times he was on Academic Council. Additionally he served terms as chairman of the Faculty Association, a dues-levying organization. I must tell you that at the initial meeting of this group once year he could scarcely conceal a grin when he predicted a fiscally secure year for the Association, reminding the assembled faculty that this year they had chosen an economist for their president and Professor Ruth Grob, a native of Geneva, for their treasurer...'our Swiss banker,' he called her. So he was a contributing and collaborating faculty member, a colleague with home it was a pleasure to work.
One of the most significant collaborations he and I were involved in was the establishment and operation of the Regional Studies Center at the College. This was a natural for LaMar. He had earlier received a grant to attend the University of Washington to study regional economics, and he was born and reared in Idaho in Snake River country. Out of all this came several publications, monographs, books on Idaho income and demographics, and an essay on economics in Washington County in connections with the operation of the mercury mine on Nutmeg Mountain east of Weiser. All of this scholarly activity fit right in with the purposes of the Regional Studies Center.
The final collaboration I wish to mention was in the activities of the Danforth Associates, a pan-American campus organization whose purpose it was to reassure students during the turbulent 60s and 70s that college campuses could be places where reasonableness, civility, and intellectual freedom and its twin – responsibility- might thrive. And these virtues could be realized in a Christian environment. LaMar and Faith organized four faculty couples who were to be a presence on campus but would invite students into their homes for meals and conversation and thus help create an environment in which those ideals identified previously might flourish.
That was LaMar… reliable, diligent, faithful, and hardworking, a good friend and teacher whose presence here has made the world just a little bit better.
Perhaps I speak for other constituencies and other friends when I say I shall miss him deeply and in many ways … but especially in August when he and Milton Roelofs used to compete to see which one would be first to sell us our tickets to the annual chuckwagon, sponsored by his beloved Kiwanis Club.