To the Campus Community:
I am deeply saddened to tell you that William E. (Bill) Gohlman, Associate Professor Emeritus of History, 78, died on Wednesday morning. Professor Gohlman served the College selflessly and well for over 36 years, as a teacher, mentor, scholar, and departmental and College citizen.
Bill earned his B.A. in History at the University of Washington, and his M.A. (Near Eastern Studies) and Ph.D. (History) at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He joined the Geneseo faculty in 1974 as an expert in Islamic history, with a particular interest in the assimilation of Persian, Greek, and Christian elements into classical Islam, as well as the interaction of European and Indian cultures in the 15th & 16th centuries. His 1974 book, The Life of Ibn Sina, about the 12th century Moslem philosopher who reintroduced Aristotelian philosophy to the West, was considered by the then-director of SUNY Press to be "the most outstanding piece of scholarship published by the SUNY Press."
Bill's teaching career represented the best that a public liberal arts college has to offer -- not only through his rigorous yet supportive style that drew students to him, but also through the breadth of courses he taught, co-taught, and directed as independent studies. In addition to courses on Islamic history, Bill taught and team-taught Humanities I and II, co-taught the History of Science, and offered Women in Western Society courses and intensive writing seminars. On top of this rich and varied load, he also taught directed studies in elementary and advanced Arabic virtually every semester. He was an exceptionally well-read teacher-scholar who had the capacity to see connections where others only saw disjunction or conflict. Before joining our faculty, Bill had also taught at The American University of Beirut and Paine College in Augusta, GA. Both experiences profoundly shaped his personal perspectives and commitments as a teacher and scholar.
As a humble man, his teaching and scholarly accomplishments may not be as widely known as his generous and wide-ranging service to the College. Bill served as Humanities Coordinator for the first decade of the core sequence. His commitment, along with a few key colleagues, to HUMN laid the groundwork for its subsequent 25 years as a foundation for a Geneseo education. Bill also served in College Senate for many years and in almost every capacity including Senate Chair, chair of numerous committees, member-at-large, parliamentarian, and University Faculty Senator. In addition to many other College-wide committees, Bill chaired his department's personnel committee, advised the History Club, and for two decades advised incoming students during Summer Orientation. Bill provided leadership and tireless service to Geneseo's chapter of United University Professions (UUP) -- as president, vice president for academics, board member, and delegate to multiple state assemblies. It is indicative of Bill's commitment to the College that he continued to teach courses as needed following his retirement in 2010.
A memorial reception will be held at the Big Tree Inn, 46 Main Street, on Sunday, September 9th from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. Memorial donations may be made to the Geneseo Foundation/History Department, Erwin 11, 1 College Circle, Geneseo, NY 14454.
I know all of you join me in offering sincere condolences to Meg, Joe, Rob, Tina, Paul; the rest of Bill's family (including his brother and sister-in-law, Dick and Leslie Gohlman of Portland, OR); and his many, many friends and colleagues. Bill was a kind, gentle, and generous soul whose passing leaves a immense rent in the fabric of our community.
Christopher C. Dahl