Guestbook: Alumni and friends pay tribute
Special thanks to those of you who sent in your stories, poems, and good wishes. Your contributions will be included in a print version presented to Fr. Eleutherius Winace on the occasion of his birthday, July 10, 2009. We hope this web version continues to grow.
If you have something to contribute, please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Armand Larive
- Avery Fouts
- Bob Doud
- Brian Wohlin
- Camille Atkinson
- Wm. Carter Sims
- Clinton Combs
- Darrell Moellendorf
- David Hitchcock
- Delores Abdella Combs
- Eric Ditwiler
- Francesca Bero
- George West
- Jon H. Avery
- Jon-Erik Storm
- John Quiring
- Judy Miles
- Kelly Nicholson
- Kurt D. Smith
- Steven Goldman
- Terry Mathis
- Thomas A. Vician
- Vernon Kooy
Dear Father Winance,
Congratulations on your 100th birthday. I studied Husserl with you in the early '70s and--with some other students--once visited your monastery. I am glad our Lord has given you many years of health and productivity. My time as your student has not been forgotten.
I finished with a PhD in philosophy from CGU and, as an Episcopal priest, continued with interest more in theology, having published in the theology of work. I have a resident scholar's appointment with the Benedictines at the Collegeville Institute this fall in Minnesota.
I am pleased to be among your well wishers and give thanks that you fruitfully touched so many lives.
Dieu merci pour Pere Winance!
Name: Armand Larive
Degree/Year: PhD Philosophy (dissertation on Wittgenstein's language games)/1975
Current Info: My degree at Claremont was a "time out" from my work as a parish priest of Episcopal origin. After finishing at Claremont, I became rector of a parish in Pullman, Washington and taught part time at Washington State University. I received a prize for teaching courses in science and religion from the Templeton Foundation. Upon retirement, I moved to the western part of the state and finished a book on a long-time interest in theology of work entitled After Sunday. I expect to pursue that interest next fall as a resident scholar at Collegeville Institute, an ecumenical and cultural research center on the campus of St. Benedict's College and St. John's University in Minnesota.
In the spring of 1989, I audited a seminar on Husserl led by Father Eleutherius Winance. Even though I grasped little that Father Winance had to say that semester, one thing was certain at the end: I was committed to finding out what this “old man” was up to—even if it turned out to be the proverbial last thing that I would ever do. I took a seminar conducted by Father Winance the next semester and then “sat in” on his lectures for the next seven years, all throughout my graduate school career. I also made many trips to St. Andrew’s Abbey and talked with him in his garden on summer days and either in his room or up in the ranch house on winter days. In the acknowledgments to my dissertation, I state that the one thing I am inclined to deem providential in my life is having had Father Winance as a teacher. In introducing me to the basics of Aquinas, he introduced me to a realist way of looking at things, which, at least for me, provides a much-needed alternative to modernity and post-modernity. In so doing, and more importantly, he helped me appropriately channel my nascent intuitions of the sheer wonder of existence and the mystery of consciousness.
Name: Avery Fouts
Degree/Year: PhD Religion/1996
Current Info: I am now professor of philosophy and religious studies at University of South Carolina Union, a regional campus of the University of South Carolina.
Avery Fouts with Fr. Winance at St. Andrews
TO AN OLD PHILOSOPHER IN VALYERMO
This is a new poem based on the better poem by Wallace Stevens, called “To an Old Philosopher in Rome.” This poem is dedicated to Fr. Eleutherius Winance, OSB, the esteemed philosopher and professor at the Claremont Graduate University. I am grateful to him.
The poet Wallace Stevens went to Rome to visit George Santayana, as that philosopher was drawing near to death in a nursing home run by nuns in that Holy City, the Eternal City. Wallace Stevens lived as an agnostic on just this side of the threshold of faith. Santayana was also agnostic, but loved the perennial beauty, ancient charm, and eternal promise of the faith of Rome. In his own better poem than this one, Stevens contemplates Santayana as passing over into a state of beautiful bliss. Father Eleutherius is a man of Catholic faith, philosophic rigor, and Benedictine simplicity. Trenchant frankness, monastic simplicity and the self-criticism of the philosopher are also marks of his nature.
On the threshold of heaven, lover of the earth,
long have you loved your God in mystery, liturgy, and contemplation.
You have become a figure, familiar in your monastery garden,
with Belgian cleverness, Hercule Poirot of phenomenology,
familiar too with China in times of joy and sadness,
a man living inwardly in Subiaco, Bruges, and heaven,
singing psalms, attuned to the church’s music,
learned in the library and classroom,
publishing books and articles so erudite, arcane, and wise.
Reason, as you live it and for it faithfully,
dedicated yourself both to questioning and resurrection,
and living a mystery not unintelligible, but beyond intelligence.
With natural mind you think your way
to places where nature opens out and touches transcendence,
meeting there a meaning beyond the reach of reason.
You argued, discussed, taught, and learned,
and took reason to the brink of mystery,
understanding well the world and mind, and then surrendering to grace.
Before your mind, enigmas, conundrums shrink, sometimes embarrassed,
until they find their explanation –
cogent, valid, sound, strong, consistent,
or none of these if that truth must be faced --
probed for evidence and inference,
never left unexamined the claims of the seeking mind,
or claims of life beyond, that must, that must, dissolve in wonder.
Your reason ever with you, skeptic among brittle arguments,
and mystic in the meanings that endure.
Your old student, once the ephebe, remembers
you, esteemed one, connoisseur of ambiguité,ofconsciousness and its contents:
your furrowed lessons on the primacy of perception, motility,
refutations of psychologism, finding the incarnate Cogito,
operative intentionality, the structure of behavior,
Le corps propre, Maine de Biran, Merleau-Ponty, Alphonse de Waelhens aussi,
the flesh of the world, the visible and the invisible,
the phenomenal body, the interworld, the pre-reflective Cogito.
Then, the vesture, the venture, the vitality,
the vividness of being, truth, and goodness –
beauty too, and the Angelic Doctor.
The poet Stevens wrote of his old mentor, professor
in Rome, dozing, he said, in the depth of better wakefulness,
in the warmth of a summer sheeted bed,
or propped up in a single chair, Santayana, ever curious,
living in two worlds, viewing one
as always with judicious probity, integrity of mind,
and in the other, already familiar in choir
with the company of monks and angels.
Total grandeur in a total edifice of thought and faith,
boldly preached by a vocal purveyor of truths revealed,
Curious, you step back a moment on this threshold,
as if to hear again the questions you still cherish,
about phenomenology, thinking toward the things themselves,
before the quiet venture into pure response and pure repose.
Name: Bob Doud
Degree/Year: PhD Philosophy/1977
Current Info: I retired as professor emeritus from Pasadena City College in 2007, after 31 years there, and as an adjunct at other places, including La Verne, Woodbury, and Cal Poly.
Dr. Jacqueline Powers Doud, Dr. Robert Doud, Dr. Patrick Horn, Dr. Steven Davis, and Dr. John Vickers (rear left to front right)
One of my most cherished memories of my time at, what was then, CGS, is the day Father Winance was lecturing on the Thomas Aquinas' proofs for the existence of God. Father Winance related a story of how he was approached at a dinner party by a gentleman who asked him if he believed in God. Father Winance gave a little impish smile, when he told us that he shocked his fellow dinner guest by saying, "No, I don't believe." Then, after a brief pause, and with Thomistic flair, he had continued, "I know."
Another fond memory I have of Father Winance was the times he would remark on the overly complicated, false beliefs we sometimes adopt as adults, even though any child could see through the absurdity of those beliefs. "Of course," he concluded, "you are sophisticated!"
Name: Brian Wohlin
Degree/Year: MA Philosophy/1984
Current Info: I am a software developer in the San Diego area.
I am writing in praise of Fr. Winance and in celebration of his 100th birthday. I cannot say enough about how honored I feel to have known him. Not only was he an inspiration to me as a graduate student, he warmly welcomed my husband and me on a visit to Valyermo and provided us with a wonderful tour of the grounds. We met his fellow monks, attended a mass and visited the ceramics workshop. But, what was best of all and most surprising was his amazing garden -- something which included not only small plants and flowers but huge trees and other high desert wildlife. The flora and fauna in that garden Fr. Winance attended could make even St. Francis envious!
Simply put, Fr. Winance was the professor I most admired and cherished when I was a student at Claremont Graduate School. I took classes with him from 1985 to 1988, and think of him quite fondly and quite often to this very day. Not only was I in awe of his breadth and depth of knowledge, as well as envious of his command of several languages and his keen intellect, he was among the most engaged and engaging professors I have ever had. What was particularly striking is how attentive he was to his students -- he seemed to be consistently "tuned-in" and always watched our faces for a response. He never lectured "at" us, as is the unfortunate habit of many academics. Rather, it was completely clear that he was interested in what we thought and sought out our responses whether we were in agreement with the material being presented or not. Not only was he passionate about philosophy and an animated speaker himself, he seemed to take particular delight in witnessing our responses, fielding our questions and sharing in our insights. There was one occasion, which I will absolutely never forget: He briefly paused from what he was saying, looked directly at a student and said, "ah, yes, I see you smile! That means you understand!" While this appears to be such a small, simple gesture, it has had longtime significance for me and continues to resonate with me as an indication of what a truly extraordinary teacher and human being he was and is.
In sum, I consider Fr. Winance to be a Socrates of the 20th-21st centuries. His warmth of personality and thoughtful legacy will live on in the hearts and minds of his students as well as for those they teach. Again, I am eternally grateful and feel blessed to have been in his presence.
Name: Camille Atkinson
Degree/Year: MA Philosophy/1989
Current Info: I went on to complete my PhD (in philosophy with a minor in political theory) at The New School for Social Research in New York City in 1998. I am currently living in Oregon and teaching for the University of Portland as well as Portland State University. I recently published an article entitled "Kant on Human Nature and Radical Evil" in Volume 19 of Philosophy and Theology (a Marquette University publication).
[Wm. Carter Sims]
When I was a student and Claremont in the early 60’s I took as many classes from Fr. Winance as possible. Analytic philosophy was becoming increasingly dominant and Fr. Winance’s classes were my refuge. Each week, after Fr. Winance finished his teaching assignment, it was necessary for someone to drive him to Mt. Saint Mary’s College which was a considerable distance from Claremont. Everyone was willing to do their part but it was a burden. I seized on the situation as an opportunity to get private tutorial sessions. For the rest of the semester I offered to be Fr. Winance’s chauffer every chance I could.
On one of these trips we had an enlightening discussion. In a burst of enthusiasm I said that I thought he was the best philosopher in Claremont. To my surprise, he agreed and then he told me why. “Philosophy isn’t my primary concern,” he said, “and this gives me freedom to go anywhere and experiment with every new idea that comes my way. If the idea fails or leads to a dead end, I simply go on to something else. Other philosophers have all their eggs in just one basket. They are afraid of making a mistake so they stay close to what they know best; they become overly cautious and tedious.” He was quiet for a moment and then said, “Everything I have ever needed to know, I discovered by the time I was twelve. That’s when I accepted Jesus and decided to dedicate my life to the Church.” All this was said in jest, but he meant every word of it and it was true. We philosophers should be embarrassed that the Way (to philosophical insight) is being shown to us by a Dominican priest but, on the other hand, I am now very thankful he was there pointing me in the right direction.
Over the years I stopped at St. Andrew’s Priory whenever I was in the area. One time my wife and I asked if Fr. Winance was available. We were told to wait in a garden area. After a few minutes he came down the lane on a bicycle with his priestly robes flapping in the wind. Shortly after that we moved out of the area and that was the last time I saw him.
Name: Wm. Carter Sims
"But as for me, I say this. . ." How many times have we, as students of Friar Winance heard this opening? Friar Winance would always tell us what Merleau-Ponty, Husserl, Aquinas, or who ever we were studying had said, explain some objections, some alternative points of view, some historical context, and then give us his own view. Father Winance is both a teacher and a real philosopher who took a stand on the material he taught. For Father Winance, to know something is to perfect yourself. Learn to know, he said, not to teach.
As a teacher, Father Winance is able to make complicated issues clear. Some of his distinctions are too good not to share. A phenomenologist and an idealist sit down for breakfast. The phenomenologist orders bacon, eggs, and toast. The idealist orders calories, protein, fat, and carbohydrates. The idealist has got so caught up in his theory that he has lost touch with the Lebenswelt (defined by Father Winance as "the world of your grandmother"). Bringing this distinction home, Winance explained that after Christ was resurrected he appeared to a group of women and they accepted the reality of their experience. They saw Christ. The men to whom he appeared, however, had problems reconciling their perception with their representations of the world. Father Winance’s distinction between knowledge and perception also speaks to this point. Ask a child of 3 to describe their house and they describe what they know. The 3 year old describes mommy, daddy, sister, brother, where they sleep, where their toys are, and where they eat. Ask a child of 10 to describe their house and you get a representation. You get a shape, a color, size. In short, you get a description of what they perceive, not what they live. The child of 10 has already acculturated into thinking in terms of abstractions, not reality. The mind of the child at 3 is the goal of the phenomenologist. The child at 10 has already bought into the view of British Empiricism and/or Kant’s idealism. The 10 year old has fallen victim to the fallacy of misplaced concreteness.
A giant sequoia stands in the center of a lush garden north of Saint Andrews Abbey. This tree was given to Father Winance by a forest ranger. When Father Winance planted the tree some 50 years ago, it was only a sapling. Now, it towers over the garden. The sequoia is the centerpiece of an entire oasis that he planted in the desert. It casts a welcome shadow on all who go near. Throughout my philosophical career, many fine professors have planted saplings in my thought, but the sapling planted by Father Winance has grown into a tree whose height is unsurpassed.
Name: Clinton Combs
Degree/Year: MA Philosophy/2000
Current Info: I am currently a PhD Candidate in Religion (Philosophy of Religion and Theology Program) at CGU.
Clinton Combs with Fr. Winance at St. Andrews
I was Fr. Winance’s student in the mid 80s. I took three graduate classes with him, at the then-named Claremont Graduate School. These courses were on Husserl’s Ideas and Logical Investigations and Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception. Fr. Winance is an exemplary scholar. For each of these classes he provided the students with a set of copious notes on the text, running commentaries, which I still have to this day. Additionally, Fr. Winance’s linguistic abilities are remarkable. Once or twice I was part of a group of graduate students who went out to lunch with him at a Chinese restaurant where he would talk to the restaurant staff in Mandarin. On a couple of occasions I visited Fr. Winance at the Benedictine monastery in Valyermo. Back then I was impressed with how vigorous was the man then approaching his 80th birthday; I thought of him as a walking advertisement for the positive health effects of the monastic life.
Not surprising then that we should be celebrating his 100th birthday. Fr. Winance was an extremely dedicated teacher. There were a couple of times in those days when Cajon pass was closed due to snow. He would set out many hours earlier than normal and have his driver take the much longer route from the north into Claremont. Fr. Winance was also insightful in the classroom. One of his examples has stuck with me through the years. In an effort to explain the phenomenological method, he asked us to consider a mirror: We see ourselves in it every day, but we only stop to think about it rather than our reflection when we periodically clean it. The phenomenological study of consciousness is similar to cleaning the mirror. Unless we deliberately attend to the medium we are mostly unaware of it in our experience. Although my philosophical interests have long since diverged from phenomenology, I feel very fortunate to have had a man of such intellect and grace as my teacher. I regret that I could not attend the birthday celebration, but I remember Fr. Winance fondly and wish him well.
Ph.D. Philosophy, CGS, 1990
Current position: Professor of Philosophy, San Diego State University
I took a graduate course in medieval philosophy from Father Winance (and Mrs. Douglass) in my first year of graduate studies, from September 1964 to January 1965. We met on Tuesday evenings, at 7 p.m., in room 111 of the Southern California School of Theology. We worked our way through Thomas Aquinas’s Commentary on Boethius’s De Trinitate, a work so obscure that its only English translation was out of print. We had to read it in mimeographed form–this was before the advent of photocopying. I still have the folder with my notes from this course. Reading them over, 44 years later, impresses me with the immense erudition, energy and kindliness of Father Winance. Discovering that most of us students had very little knowledge of medieval philosophy, he prepared as background a mimeographed handout of 84 single-spaced pages on philosophy in the 13th and 14th centuries. They bring to life the intellectual excitement created by the encounter of Christian philosophers and theologians with a newly rediscovered Aristotle.
I recall to this day the pleasure of Father Winance that two of the students in that class, myself and Martin Yaffe, knew Latin. To my surprise, I see in my folder that I translated two passages from Aquinas during that course, as well as writing an essay on St. Thomas and the problem of evil that is a testament to the encouragement that I received from Father Winance.
Memories fade over the years, but one memory that remains fresh is Father Winance’s description of Aquinas’s manner of interpreting Aristotle: “Aquinas is very polite. He never says that Aristotle is mistaken. He just interprets him generously.”
While a graduate student at Claremont, I went on more than one occasion to the monastery at Valyermo, and was impressed by the atmosphere of peace and tranquillity there.
Father Winance, I am delighted to hear that you remained active philosophically for so many decades. With the help of the education that I received from you, I have taught medieval philosophy on occasion to undergraduates, and may do so again in the future. Thank you for your teaching and your example. On the occasion of your 100th birthday, I extend my best wishes that God’s grace may be with you and that you continue to live an active and enjoyable life.
Name: David Hitchcock
Degree/Year: PhD Philosophy/1974
Current Info: Professor of Philosophy, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Photos by David Hitchcock from 1960's at St. Andrews, Valyermo
[Delores Abdella Combs]
In the One-Hundredth Year of His Life …
Early on, he became the grandfather I wish I had. But also, he became the sage whose path I crossed, and for which my heart is grateful… I looked forward to seeing Father Winance each Tuesday, as he arrived early at the CGU philosophy house where I worked as department secretary. He would be escorted in, generally by Brother Dominique and he would bid greetings to me. When time permitted, he would talk to me about some aspect of his life – serving his Catholic order and teaching in China during the early years of last century, of challenges while teaching Philosophy in Belgium, Rome and Africa, and his weekly junkets, as he put it, “to visit the old people in the old folk’s home.” Though I know in his life’s experiences he has hob-nobbed with, witnessed his faith to, and taught Philosophy to, academics, juvenile detainees, and the community at large, Father Winance also shared his life with me and he listened to me. He made me feel just as important as one of his students. From him I learned the beauty of knowledge—of exploring and challenging my beliefs and perceptions. In fact, I became a student as our conversations continued well after his retirement from teaching at Claremont Graduate University (CGU).
I have enjoyed visits to St. Andrew’s Abbey in Valyermo -- of walking through its desert oasis, especially the towering trees and thick green foliage within the garden Father Winance planted over thirty years ago. I have enjoyed sitting in the sun with him as soft desert winds add melody to our conversations, or sitting in one of the hallowed rooms of St. Andrew’s Abbey as he discusses a Greek text he’s just read or Merleau-Ponty. I hang on to every word, as Father Winance would a good brandy. In fact, once I asked him what I could bring him, not knowing of any gift that could possibly convey what he has come to mean to me. He smiled and said, “I am quite fond of brandy!”
I always look back as I walk away from him at the end of my visits. I do this with all those I love. I look back when I walk away because I don’t want to say good bye. I want just one more glimpse. And I think, as I watch him walk slowly down a leaf-strewn path that I want to remember this. To remember him… the times I brushed dandruff from his lapel before he walked to class at CGU, and the way he says each time at the end of our visit, “I will see you again, unless I die. I’m getting old, you know.”
Thank you, Father Winance, for opening doors to enlightenment , the humility of learning, and of faith.
Name: Delores Abdella Combs
Degree/Year: B.A., Pitzer 2004
Current Info: CGU Philosophy Department Secretary, 1994-2000, Founder, Forgotten Souls Redeemed
And I thought he was old when I took classes from him. I don't really know what to say other than that the man is an encyclopedia and I would love to be involved in the celebration.
Name: Eric Ditwiler
Degree/Year: MA Philosophy/1991
Current Info: I work at HMC in the dean of faculty's office and have re-enrolled at CGU as a PHD student in education.
I taught at the University of La Verne from 1984 to 1989. During that time I studied phenomenology with Fr. Win. I visited Valyermo several times and spent many happy hours in his "garden".
Name: Francesca Bero
Degree/Year: PhD Philosophy of Education/1979, MA Philosophy/1988
Current Info: For the past 10 years I have taught at a small private college at Incline Village right Lake Tahoe, Sierra Nevada College. I am a full professor in Teacher Education.
Francesca Bero and D.Z. Phillips at St. Andrews Francesca with La Verne students at St. Andrews
Photos by F. Bero
Several distinct memories, of course his account of his captivity while in China were fascinating, but these two:
Once, while he was puttering in his garden in Valyermo and we were talking philosophy, he noted, "You know, the problem with analytic philosophy is that it presumes there is something to analyze."
And then while we both stood at the campus bus stop, I queried him about whether he was going to see the movie The Exorcist (which had just come out). "Alas, no the brothers have gone, however." He then regaled me with the story of how he was invited to an exorcism in China and he felt fortunate to have missed the opportunity as everyone involved, priest, assistant and the subject were all consumed in a barn fire. The events were actually later captured in Malachi Martin's book "Hostages of the Devil."
Name: George West
Degree/Year: MA Philosophy/mid 70’s (I took the MA instead of finishing the PhD because I was finishing my JD instead).
Current Info: I am currently Board Certified as a Chaplain, specializing on crisis & traumatic stress. I serve as Vice President of Mission Integration for St. John's Regional Medical Center & St. John's Pleasant Valley Hospital, both are members of Catholic Healthcare West.
[Jon H. Avery]
I remember taking philosophy of religion from Father Winance in the fall of 1977. One meeting outside of class stands out when I ran into him between the philosophy building and the classroom building. After asking him about the distinction between lived experience and reflective consciousness, he exuberantly gestured while explaining the distinction between spontaneous action in the present and deliberate reflection on the past. Most importantly, though, his lasting influence on my life has been in both his analytical and phenomenological approach to the philosophy of religion, which was at that time the general approach to philosophy in the department.
Name: Jon H. Avery
Jon H. Avery
Bluegrass Community and Technical College
Part-Time Instructor in Philosophy and Religious Studies
Dear Father Winance:
I had the privilege of studying Husserl with you in 2000. As much as I admired your teaching, I also admired you as a man because of your inspiring life story. A person can only expect to meet people like you on rare occasion; getting to learn from you was unique. Though I did not continue with my studies in philosophy, I would not be where I am in my legal practice without it; nor would I be where I am in my study of rabbinics; nor would I have the sense of who I am as a person. Even though I only studied with you one semester, it was at the end of my formal philosophy studies. I was glad to have the original spark of love for philosophy that got me started as an undergraduate restored. Thank you for that.
Jon-Erik G. Storm, M.A., 2000
Avery Fouts took me to St. Andrews Abbey to meet Fr. Winance, whom I had once heard at a Philosophy of Religion and Theology colloquium--on a theme in phenomenology.
It was a very-hot, August late-afternoon in Valyermo as we talked by the lake.When we said goodbye in the monastery garden it was evening. I turned around and saw the silhouette of Fr. Winance merging with the dusk.
The man in the black habit symbolized the unity of first and third person perspectives, life and death.
Thank you Fr. Winance.
Name: John Quiring
Degree/Year: PhD Religion (Philosophy of religion and theology)/1995
Current Info: I am an adjunct instructor at Victor Valley College and Program Director at the Center for Process Studies.
I have nothing but warm and wonderful memories of Fr. Winance and of his helpfulness to me as a student. I should explain that I never took any classes from him. I did not get to know him until he became a member of my dissertation committee in 1989. My friends had wonderful things to say about his classes but my interests at the time were more in analytic philosophy and Fr. Winance tended to teach courses in Husserl, phenomenology and medieval philosophy. Several of the students who did take his classes told me how much Fr. Winance enjoyed going out to lunch with his students to a Chinese restaurant in the Claremont area. Since Fr. Winance had been a missionary in China for quite a few years he was fluent in Chinese. The waiters would always look utterly astonished to hear such perfect Chinese spoken by a Francophone with a Belgian accent who happened to walk into their Southern California restaurant. I was never present at any of these lunches but this story has always made me wish I had been.
Since I ultimately decided to write a dissertation about Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, Edmund Husserl and Edith Stein I was advised to ask Fr. Winance to be on my committee. The fact that he was a native speaker of French and that he knew the works of Sartre, Husserl and Edith Stein extremely well made him an ideal committee member. He readily agreed and he suggested I visit him at St. Andrew's Priory in Valyermo where we could have extended conversations, often in the garden he had been tending for over 20 years. I did this several times and I will never forget the conversations we had. If he thought I was heading down the wrong path in my writing he would tactfully tell me so and why. He also furnished a lot of historical information that helped to situate my dissertation and he shared some of his thoughts about how philosophers do philosophy these days. I will never forget his comment about how so many of them seem to be more like technicians than philosophers. For Fr. Winance, philosophy is not just a profession or an academic endeavor. It is something that is woven into one's life
and he was a living example of this. He was a philosopher whose character one wanted to emulate and he was a teacher whose example one could only attempt to live up to.
I visited Fr. Winance in Valyermo several times in the mid 1990's after I completed my Ph.D. in 1991. One weekend my mother and I went to visit him there and on the way to his garden my mother became so engrossed in
the story Fr. Winance was telling that she failed to notice a three-inch high raised concrete rectangle surrounding some water and she accidentally fell into one of the fountains in the patio behind the guest quarters. We heard my mother's brief cry of "Oh!" and then heard a splash and looked down to see my mother laughing at herself and saying to Fr. Winance, "Well, I /have/ already been baptized, you know!" She was much more concerned to hear the rest of Fr. Winance's story, though, and we helped her back to her feet for the rest of the walk to Fr. Winance's garden. My mother still laughs at her brief dip into the fountain that day but she talks much more about the beauty of the garden, of the richness and humor of Fr. Winance's stories and of the insights he shared in the sermon he gave in church that morning.
I didn't go up to Valyermo for about ten years until a friend had gone there on a retreat and returned to tell me that, when she mentioned my name to Fr. Winance, he remembered exactly who I was. He even remembered the topic of my dissertation and our conversations about it. I was deeply touched by this and decided, in November 2007, to brave that two-lane mountain road once again myself in order to visit him in person. I booked a room in the guest quarters and stayed the night so that I could talk with him after mass in the morning. It was true. He did indeed remember me after all those 20 years since my dissertation and even since the last ten when I had not been very much in touch with him at all. I had assumed that Fr. Winance had had so many other people to remember that I would have faded to the margins at best. I have since learned that everyone I know who has gone to visit him has been very clearly remembered by him. I think this is at least partly a consequence of how he considers each individual to be important and worthy of his time. I see this as just one way he makes philosophy a part of his life. Even though I worked with Fr. Winance for only two years or so I find he influences my own approach to philosophy virtually every day.
It's high time I told him so.
Ph.D. Philosophy 1991
Emerita Professor of Philosophy
California State Polytechnic Institute, Pomona
October 1988 photo by Judy Miles
While I did not know him well in my time of residence at Claremont, Father Winance impressed me on more than one occasion with his personal kindess and his great scholarship. He is one of those precious folk, celebrated by minister and civil rights activist John Haynes Holmes in his sermon "Ten Reasons for Believing in Immortality", who confirm with their sheer vibrancy the undying truth of the spirit. I wish him well on his own day of celebration.
My love and regards to all who attend - Kelly Nicholson, Class of 1989
[Kurt D. Smith]
It was mid-afternoon and from inside the Philosophy House, which used to be located on College Avenue, we could hear the screech of automobile tires. We immediately went out onto the front porch. We could see that whatever had just happened had just happened over about a block, west of us. Although I didn’t go, several did, and the following is what they reported upon their return.
When they arrived, they saw sitting in the middle of the street an avocado-green Oldsmobile, probably built around the 1960s. Doors open, the old sedan was flanked by two elderly women, though compared to the man they had just hit, who stood at the front of the car now patting street dust from his priestly black robe, the women were young—the priest they had just clipped now almost ninety.
The women, frantic, called for onlookers to call “911,” though their victim took time between pats to wave off any takers. Father Winance would have none of that. He must’ve thought that emergency medical services had better things to do than to waste time establishing what he already knew—he was fit as a fiddle. The only bad thing, he said, was that the attempt on his life had made him late for lunch (at a local Rectory). Father Winance reportedly then told the ladies that if they really wanted to help, perhaps they could give him a ride.
Speaking in Tongues:
What some don’t know is that as a young man Father Winance was held in a prisoner-camp in China. As with several languages, he was fluent in Mandarin Chinese. I had studied three years of Mandarin while an undergraduate, before coming to Claremont. I was not by any measure fluent. Even so, Father Winance enjoyed speaking to me in Chinese, though the bulk of our “conversations” were of the sort one finds in beginner textbooks—“Ni hao ma? (How are you?)” “Wo hen hao, nin ne? (I’m very fine, and you?)” and so on. We kept it simple.
Late one spring semester a young man drove out from the Midwest to visit the campus, having been accepted into the philosophy graduate program. He wanted to see the lay of the land, which included his trying to get a sense of just how tough the Claremont graduate program was. Lela, the department secretary at the time, asked me to show the kid around.
We had just returned to the Philosophy House from a tour of the area, including all five undergraduate campuses, and were sitting at the large seminar table that occupied what would have been the house’s living room when it was a residence. I think that we were drinking lemonade that Lela had just made. It was at this time that the visitor decided to fish around for hints about how tough graduate school might be.
He asked me about what professors expect from students. At that very moment, and this is all perfectly true, Father Winance entered the front door of the Philosophy House, immediately zeroing in on us at the table. He wore the fancy Benedictine black robe, which almost touched the floor (covering his feet), climbing all the way up to cover his neck. Atop this black figure set a pink face with bristling white hair. He wore glasses, which served to magnify the intensity of his priestly stare. He appeared to float towards us. Our visitor didn’t know what to make of it.
“Ni hao ma?” came from the priest’s mouth in a firm voice. “Wo hao,” was my quick reply. Now the visitor looked absolutely horrified! After hovering there for what seemed like an eternity (just staring without saying another word), the robed figure turned and made a Bee-line (still appearing to float across the floor) to the back offices.
“Was that one of the professors?” asked the visitor.
“Yes,” I matter-of-factly said.
“What language were you speaking?”
“Chinese” I replied.
“Do all the professors require you to speak Chinese to them?”
“Only the easy ones,” I said straight-faced.
After our lemonade, we said our goodbyes and I never saw that guy again.
My Phenomenological Lunch (637 words)
At some point in my stay at Claremont, I became sort of a health nut. A typical day for me included my bringing a bag-lunch with me. A typical lunch included tuna fish on whole wheat, olive oil replacing the mayo, carrot sticks, an apple, and bottled water.
I was paying penance for all those years prior during which I had allowed myself to be corrupted by Chuck Young, who along with Jim Bogen had actually tried to convince me on one rainy afternoon, based on something Aristotle had said, that in being an animal it was better for me qua animal to eat tasty charbroiled and barbequed animals—or something to that effect. Patricia Easton didn’t help either, introducing all of us to those fancy French cheeses. Graduate students in those days were basically walking clogged arteries.
While I ate lunch one afternoon at the Philosophy House, Father Winance walked in. He was horrified by what sat in front of me. The carrot sticks appeared to have pushed him over the edge.
“What are you eating?” he asked.
I explained the entire layout. I noted, for instance, “I’ve replaced the mayo with olive oil in order to reduce saturated fat.” I went through the entire cast of characters. There was Protein, Carbohydrate (complex and his evil twin simple), Fat, who had many family members, most of whom I tried to avoid, and so on.
Father Winance was mesmerized by my tale, noting that I seemed to have stumbled onto a new religion, the ‘gods’ sporting rather funny names—Carbohydrate was his favorite.
“So, you’d rather eat your scientific lunch than your phenomenological lunch?” he asked.
“Scientific lunch?” I replied.
“Yes, the intelligible lunch that you’ve constructed from your new religion,” he said. “You seek out the good god Complex-Carbohydrate, but avoid the evil god Saturated Fat. Have you ever met any of these gods—in your experience, I mean?”
“No,” I said.
“So, why do you eat that scientific lunch; the lunch that you think—your purely intellectual lunch?” he asked. “Why not eat your phenomenological lunch; the lunch that you experience; the lunch that you taste, smell, feel, see, and so on?”
I hadn’t realized that Chuck had also turned me into a closeted Platonist. “My intellectual lunch?” I said to myself. If we were talking phenomenological lunches, I had to admit that I preferred a Kosmo cheeseburger or a Los Jarritos taquito platter to that tuna fish on whole wheat.
“Every morning,” Father Winance said, “I eat two eggs over-easy, bacon, and toast with butter; at lunch I like a bacon-cheeseburger with…what do you call them?...potato fries, sometimes followed by a shot of whiskey. But, I sometimes save that for after dinner at the monastery. Oh yes, I like a good cigar from time to time. And look at me, Smith, I’m almost ninety.”
I became light-headed just thinking about Father Winance’s menu. It is true that I had actually never tasted a protein or carbohydrate molecule. Rather, my experience dealt in the currency of the tastes of charbroiled meat and salty french-fries, crunchy on the outside, piping hot and buttery soft on the inside. What on earth was I doing eating dry tuna on wheat? After that conversation, I changed my attitude towards food.
At my last annual physical, about six months ago, my doctor noted that my triglycerides were on the high side of normal—though still in the normal range. He advised that I go back to the tuna on whole wheat, and to avoid simple carbs and added sugars.
“You’ll never make 100 eating like that,” he said, referring to my preference for bacon cheeseburgers and occasional shot of whiskey.
“Well, says you and that scientific lunch religion crowd,” I replied.
“Scientific lunch religion,” he said while scribbling on my chart, “that’s a good one. You philosophers say the craziest things.”
Name: Kurt D Smith
Degree/Year: Ph.D. 1998
Current Info: Associate Professor of Philosophy, Bloomsburg University, Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania
In Honor of Father Eleutherius Winance
I had the chance to meet and learn from Father Winance while I was a student at Claremont Graduate School in the late 1970s. I studied Kant and Husserl, and several other French and German thinkers, under Father Winance’s guidance; I was also a graduate teaching assistant at CGS for several logic sections and learned something from Father Winance about being a teacher. I also had the chance to visit Father Winance on several occasions at St. Andrews Priory in Valyermo. We had some terrific conversations in the St. Andrews library, in the dining hall, and nearby walking around the Devil’s Punchbowl; I remember several conversations we had while sitting in a garden of tall trees, just outside the Priory, all of which were planted by Father Winance. Perhaps I am another tree that grew up in Father Winance’s garden.
When I think back on my conversations with Father Winance, I see that faith is compatible with a questioning spirit. Father Winance is unafraid to dig into a question. He is willing to follow the logic of a conversation, wherever it might lead. Search does not threaten his conviction, but instead his faith seems to thrive on controversy, and on the free exercise of philosophy. He did not speak ex cathedra, as if by supreme authority, but instead fides quaerens intellectum, in the manner of faith seeking understanding.
I think there is something of the Chinese spirit of tolerance – the tolerance that makes it possible for the same person to call himself a Buddhist, a Confucian and a Taoist – in Father Winance’s worldview. Perhaps this is something that he learned during his long sojourn in China.
I am proud to have been one of Father Winance’s students and I celebrate his biblical lifespan. Truly the Benedictines distill excellent spirits, including the rare essence called Father Eleutherius Winance.
Name: Steven Goldman
Degree/Year: PhD Philosophy (Ancient Philosophy)/1981
Current Info: Professor of Philosophy, President, The Art Institute of Portland
I am delighted to hear that Father Eleutherius will soon celebrate his 100th birthday. He was the most positive influence in my intellectual development when I was a graduate student at CGU.
Name: Terry Mathis
Degree/Year: PhD Philosophy/1984
Current Info: I have been the Campus Minister at UCR for the last 10 years, although I am now looking for a new position.
[Thomas A. Vician]
MY REMEMBERANCES OF TIMES WITH FATHER ELEUTHERIUS WINANCE
Father Winance, you have insinuated you’re subtle but profound influence in my life by sharing with me (and others) your gentle spirit and marvelous scholarship during the years I pursued my doctoral studies at Claremont Graduate School. You introduced me to the works of Husserl, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Thevanez, and panoply of phenomenological source thinkers that provided depth, insight, and rigor to my scholarship, and, in particular, provided me with concrete dimensions and existential insights which has populated my pedagogy with my students these many years since we were together. You are still the model philosopher in the shadow of whose scholarly rigor and sensitive inspiration I have sought to challenge, support, and fulfill my mission with my students.
In my resident years at Claremont (1964-66), there were personal moments we shared together, for instance, the times I drove you from Claremont to the monastery at Valyermo in my yellow Triumph Spitfire sports car. On one such occasion I recall asking you to tell me about your experiences teaching philosophy at the university in China when the Maoists took over. I asked about your safety at that time, and you shared with me that you were relatively safe as you held citizenship in Belgium, but some of your Chinese colleagues in other academic disciplines were undergoing stringent and potentially harmful interrogations of their political teachings by the Communist authorities. You mentioned that you were interrogated about what you knew of their political leanings, and that you were well aware that your colleague’s political views were anti-Communist. You proffered to the Communist authorities that you never discussed politics with your colleagues and, hence, were unaware of their political loyalties even though you had discussed such topics with them and knew their preferences. I asked you directly how you as a Benedictine monk and professor of moral philosophy could justify not telling the truth, and I have never forgotten your reply that,“Tom, you only tell the truth to those who will respect the truth.” It was your distinction that truth is always an imminent relational affair but it is also based in a transcendental ground with respect to personal relations. Your insight on respect for expressing the truth and to whom has provided me with a stable point of reference in my own life and teaching.
When we reached Valyermo you were most kind to invite me to share tea and some of the delicious items from the monastery bakery. Once, while we were sharing tea one of the monks called you to a long distance telephone call from France, and you excused yourself indicating you would return shortly to bid me farewell. I recall waiting nearly one-half hour, and then decided that I should let one of the monks know that I couldn’t wait and longer because I had to pick up my wife, Liz, at the high school in Pomona where she was the head counselor. Just then you returned apologizing to me for the long duration of the telephone call saying, “I’m so sorry, Tom, for being gone so long, it was Jean-Paul who was asking me my thoughts on something he was working on.” For a moment then, I felt like I was in the presence of two of the most gifted men who were influencing my intellectual and moral life. I drove away that day marveling at my good fortune for being your student.
Father Winance, you were also a member of my dissertation committee along with Drs. Al Louch and Fred Sontag with my oral defense occurring in the fall of 1972. I expected a difficult interrogation about my chapter on Hume from Dr. Louch inasmuch as my Hume presentation disagreed in some measures with his positions. Though I had expectations that your interrogation would be less polemical than his, it was ironic that it was your questions on my concluding chapter involving Sartre and Merleau-Ponty which revealed some questionable presentations. After the oral defense committee had conferred as to whether I had successfully completed my oral defense, I remember Dr. Louch’s insistence that my doctoral work will be concluded only if I satisfied Father Winance’s concerns. You generously protested that such revisions were not necessary, but Dr. Louch flatly stated, “He’ll do them.” Again, the rigor of your scholarship coupled with your beneficial spirit reverberates in my heart and life.
My wife, Liz, sends to you her warmest regards along with mine.
Name: Thomas A. Vician
Degree/Year: PhD Philosophy/1972
Current Info: I am presently Professor Emeritus from De Anza College. My previous appointments were at California State University, East Bay and University of Nevada, Reno.
Seldom less often than frequently our memories are clouded by our dispositions and the memories gathered through the years. But there are some which stand out and even though cloudy to some degree, will always remain deep in the recesses of consciousness. Fr. Éleuthère is one of those persons who conjures up memories both pleasant and intellectually rewarding.
It was always a joke when I attended CGS that I was studying Philosophy, but majoring in Winance. It was not true exactly, though I did attend either for credit or "sat in" on every Seminar Fr. Éleuthère offered in the last half of the 60s decade. I treasured the notes he gave us before the seminar, keeping them bound in dissertation bindings.
Many memories come flooding in on this occasion – when I sat in on his Seminar and in December of 1969 wrote on the Blackboard my newborn daughter's name and handed out cigars to all in attendance; when my wife and I would visit Fr. Éleuthère at Valyermo and marvel over his garden, thinking he was a Benedictine version of St. Francis; the post-semester visits to Valyermo by his students and lunches with the monks; the remark he made when we hesitated to make a comment in his seminar - "you are free," thinking of the root of his name; the black sweater my wife knit for him for winter wear; the annoying questions he asked of me at my dissertation defense; Fr. Éleuthère putting a copy of Nestle-Aland in my hands and asking me what I thought about the fact that the text read at Mass from the Jerusalem Bible that day was not accurate; when there were protests in Belgium involving the dual cultures and languages of that country, and I asked Fr. Éleuthère a question in Dutch (Flemish) and he answered me in French.
But of all the memories the one I found most enlightening was the post-seminar Seminar at Griswold's Smorgasbord on November 11, 1968. If my memories are accurate, at 11 a.m. Norman Thomas interrupted the discussion of Thomas' Commentary on Posterior Analytics with an invitation to Fr. Éleuthère to join us for lunch at Griswold’s. There we set up several tables in a line and while we were eating, we discussed the meaning of war, the War to End all Wars, and what a nine year old boy, turned 59, could remember of that most important day. I believe almost the entire student body of the CGS Philosophy Department was there along with those students who were to attend Fr. Éleuthère's afternoon class at Pomona College, proving that the event was not as spontaneous as it at first appeared. Time passes quickly when the discussion is rewarding, but as I recall we had many other Griswold's patrons gather around our tables to listen to that Belgian who endured the events of 1914-18. I believe we were later asked politely but hesitantly to leave by the Griswold's staff, since they had begun to set up for the evening buffet.
Fr. Éleuthère, I wish for you the best (Het Beste) and will always treasure you and the memories of you and my tenure at CGS. The Lord willing, I will someday again attend your Seminar beyond the pale of our current existence.
Retired: Adjunct Instructor in Ethics
Central Community College