Tuesday, April 15, 2014
There's an obituary in today's Missoulian for Bill Ballard, who was a professor of mathematics at UM, a real progressive his entire life, a true union man, and a stalwart of the University Teachers Union throughout the 1970s and 1980s, up until the time he retired. He was 88 when he died, and was of the generation of guys like Howard Reinhardt, Arnie Silverman, Ron Perrin, Mike Chessin, John Lawry and many more, who made up the liberal old guard at UM when I arrived in 1970. Of course they were younger back then, but still, they were the repository of wisdom and common sense and a steadying voice when we needed it as we went through two representation elections, negotiated the first contract, and dealt with retrenchments and the other trials and tribulations of making the UTU more than a "marching and chowder club," as one AFT national rep once put it.
There are a dwindling number of people around who knew and worked with those guys, and I suppose that someday they will all be forgotten. But for today, remember Bill. He was a very quiet man, very serious and thoughtful, who could bring you back down to earth with a sensible and pointed question or observation. His presence in the union leadership was critical but not highly visible. I was always glad he was around. He was small physically, but one of those giants whose shoulders we stand on.