A letter from an alumnus
about Victor Preller tribute
Preller was more than a thesis adviser and confidant. I remember
1976, my son Josh in his high chair at dinner, delighted beyond
measure in the simple act of letting Vic's dog gnaw playfully on
his forearm, then withdrawing it, then letting it down within reach
again and again. Another vivid memory: 16 short years later, visiting
colleges and Vic. While listening to one of his 1,900 classical
CDs -- "You know you're starting to overdo it when you buy
your fourth version of an obscure Brahms concerto" -- I thought
Josh should hear Preller's idea of what the cool courses were now.
Vic intoned: "Hollander's course changes lives."
I recount these stories
because my remembrance of Vic Preller, and my sadness, has a theme
that is more than intellectual, though his was the most thorough
mind I have ever encountered. His strong faith in God should make
skeptics quake! The theme is more than his teaching, though he played
the role to perfection. He shunned the limelight, yet those of us
diligent or lucky enough to get to know him found a mental continent
or two opened up, by a man who was nonetheless incapable of talking
down to anyone. He assumed you were with him. If you weren't, he'd
discover your precise location.
I recount these anecdotes
because -- well, there is a wider theme, of influence and of time.
Josh ('98) took Hollander's famous Dante course, somewhat hesitantly,
convinced in part by my harping on the fact that Vic didn't bestow
praise lightly. And Josh found his Vic Preller, you might say, in
Bob Hollander. So when Vic died I told Bob (whom I had happily gotten
to know) the story about his and Josh's debt to Preller, and how
he and Vic were kindred spirits in demanding a lot of their students.
Bob emailed me back: "I barely knew, sad to tell, Victor Preller,
and had no idea he was an enthusiast of what I was trying to do
with students over the text of Dante."
Shocked as I was, Hollander's
blunt regret mirrored perfectly my wife's and my own, that we hadn't
visited Vic just one more time, or invited him to our empty nest
as we had occasionally vowed to do. Sad to tell, I hadn't even called
him in three or four years. He was only 69. We thought we had time.
Rob Slocum '71
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