My discussion of E. O. Wilson and Walter Ong reminded me that I’ve neglected this post for far too long. On 19 October 2009, Dr. Thomas Walsh died. He was an Associate Professor at Saint Louis University and the compiler of the definitive bibliography of Walter J. Ong’s works. Both a former student and close friend of Ong, Dr. Walsh was also a mentor and friend to me. Dr. Walsh shared with me an interest in the arts of memory (with Dr. Thomas Zlatic, he published “Mark Twain and the Art of Memory,” which won the 1981 Norman Foerster Prize for the best article published in American Literature and had returned to studying renaissance memory) and provided a wealth of information about Fr. Ong as I worked on the collection.
He was a careful and deliberate scholar who spent most of his career teaching for the Saint Louis University Parks College of Engineering, Aviation, and Technology, which meant that most of his career was spent teaching in a trimester system with 4 courses/term at the Cahokia, IL campus. With the merging of Parks College and its faculty into SLU proper, Dr. Walsh returned to research, gained Graduate Faculty status, and was working on a number of projects involving renaissance memory, renaissance rhetoric and literature, and Ong’s work on Milton. (I pulled everything I could find in the Ong collection relating to Milton for Dr. Walsh to work with during a recent semester-long sabbatical.) I’ll note here, now that he is no longer with us, that Fr. Ong had asked Dr. Walsh to work on an update of the Ramus and Talon Inventory, the companion volume to Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue, a testament to the kind of scholar Ong believed Dr. Walsh to be. And witnessing first hand the care and rigor Dr. Walsh approached the Ong Bibliography, I understand why Fr. Ong believed Dr. Walsh was up for the task of updating the Inventory.
He was far too young and his death came as a surprise. While losing a dissertation committee member is hard enough, I have lost a friend and I don’t think he knew just how much he meant to me.