November 1, 2012
The bewildering wisdom of Dr. John S. Reist will live on through his students.
Reist, a fine whistler, a rascal, and a beloved professor of English at Hillsdale College, died early Thursday in Kalamazoo, Mich. He was 76.
Colleagues at the college confirmed his death after a long illness. The professor was to be celebrated by friends and former students at the college on Friday. That event has been postponed, but prepared remarks by Chase Purdy are now available.
Visitation hours for Reist will be 5 to 8 p.m., Monday, Nov. 5 at Eagle Funeral Home, 40 S. Manning Street, Hillsdale. The funeral will be 2 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 6, at Holy Trinity Parish, 263 Spring St., Hillsdale.
Reist's rambunctious style of lecturing — which synthesized one-liners, show tunes, college football trivia, and a deep knowledge of literature — made him divisive among students, but also created a devoted following, including through this blog, The Sad Bear, named in honor of one of his many energetic sayings.
Reist announced his retirement in September 2010, leading to a profile in The Hillsdale Collegian. The story is no longer online (PDF here).
"A cheerful whistle, a bobbing newsboy's cap — certain evidence of the approach of one man: John Reist ..." the story began.
Reist joined the faculty in 1985 and "became known for peace signs, off-color humor and 'how I met my wife' stories." He said students at the college needed to "chill out" every once in a while. He found comfort in stirring the pot.
An ordained Baptist pastor, he preached at Jonesville Presbyterian Church. He had baptized at least four students and married at least 30 college couples. He served in the U.S. Army.
"I used to think heaven was going to be beer kegs and broads," he told the newspaper. "Now I think it's going to be books."
Obituary for John S. Reist
Undelivered remarks on John Reist, by Chase Purdy, 11/5/12
Daniel Silliman remembers 11/2/12
A eulogy for John Reist (Dr. Michael Bauman) 11/2/12
Fairfield Society to honor Reist 11/1/12
Students reflect on Reist's passing 11/1/12
'He's got forearms like railroad ties' 11/1/12
Reist for grad speaker 3/5/12
Quotable quotes of Dr. Reist (Facebook group)
No tribute could do justice, but we are left with his words, a short message about his retirement in 2010, and this video message.
Updated: We're trying to capture the thoughts of Hillsdale alumni and friends. For now, here's this collection of them, in Storify: