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Prof. William Peck [philosophy 1961–2002]

January 29, 2021, in Portland, following a long illness.

Bill and his identical twin brother, Robert, were born in New York City and raised in Hinsdale, Illinois. The two were very close as siblings, sharing a love of literature, languages, music, and baseball, and were a great balance and support to each other from childhood through elderhood. They attended prep school together at the Wooster School in Danbury, Connecticut, and then went on to college at Yale, after which they traveled Europe and worked in the Sierras.

Bill met his wife, Janet Diethelm of Bronxville, New York, at his best friend’s wedding. The couple shared a love of culture, travel, humor and languages. After a first date at a Miriam Makeba concert in Harlem, they traveled back and forth between New York and New Haven to see one another and married in 1961.

At Yale, he received both a bachelor’s degree and a PhD; his area of study was German philosophy, and in particular the work of Emmanuel Kant. He was hired by Reed in 1961 and remained a professor for 40 years, savoring those years of teaching and scholarship and becoming a member of the American Philosophical Association. Bill felt fortunate to have a position which enabled him to study his passion and teach others about it.

“My dad loved Reed with all his heart and soul,” said his son Christopher Peck, “including his colleagues on the faculty, his students who he thoroughly enjoyed teaching, singing in the choir, participating in Renn Fayre, and the overall academic and social environment that makes Reed College unique. He was grateful that he got to spend his entire academic career at Reed teaching philosophy and humanities among other areas of interests in aesthetics and linguistics.”

Bill was a wonderful father to his children, an avid Trail Blazers basketball fan, and a true intellectual who loved reading and discussing ideas. In 1967, he and Janet purchased a home in the Eastmoreland neighborhood of Portland where they lived for 35 years. They celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary a month before he died peacefully with her and his children at his bedside. Bill is survived by his wife, Janet; his daughter, Margaret; and his son, Christopher.

Appeared in Reed magazine: June 2021

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