Remembering Geneva Belford

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  • Geneva Belford: 1932-2014

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moone@illinois.edu Mar 17, 2014 9:35 am

Approximately twenty three hundred years before Professor Belford's era, Pericles elegantly described in his funeral oration a set of noble character traits that could just as well have been written for Professor Belford herself, although she might have thought it pretentious for her since she was an unpretentious person. (It's easy to imagine Geneva Belford reading a Pericles-based tribute, then chuckling over it in her familiar manner and soon forgetting about it.) Yet Pericles presents many traits that precisely frame Professor Belford:

It is right and proper on observing public sorrow to take note of our way of life and its origin in the depth of knowledge and the commitment to principle that guided Professor Belford in her career. She and others like her functioned as a beacon to guide us through the shoals of dubious conduct, treating others with a kindness from within, unresponsive to greed, while showing careless regard for consequence in the face of open disagreement. Professor Belford and those like her who are commonly thought of as models of behavior, displayed a sunny nature, abjuring the cruelty of mean action on the part of those who with numbing pride present the insult of hollow character.

Honor belongs to a certain type of uncompromising person who adheres to golden principles that reside within the mind, unaffected by aging---that are invariant with respect to time---indifferent to the grinding demands of money, unaware of any pleasures which animate others in its acquisition. Fashions and superficial obsessions in general are cast aside, including the worship of glory, the preening of unreconstructed talent and the furious campaigning required to build empires, as well as other lamentable human pastimes. Instead, it is inner balance and a feeling of reward that comes from simple respect which drives those we esteem. It has been the fortune of a chosen few to gain from discoveries and service, and to have known people of the caliber of Professor Belford.

(Except the first paragraph, the above comments were adapted from Pericles's funeral oration.)

Geneva Belford was entitled to happiness, a condition the Greek definition of which is the exercise of vital powers along the lines of excellence and a life affording them scope. (Aristotle)

Paul Saylor

Reply to moone@illinois.edu at 9:35 am
scheelin@illinois.edu Apr 1, 2014 12:15 pm

Paul Saylor got it right.  Geneva had uncompromising standards, utter integrity, rigidity where it counted, and a soft side for those who shared her standards.  She took time for students, for governance, for service in general, and reserved disdain for imperious administrators and know-nothings (sometimes one and the same!).  Sometimes she was backing Linn, sometimes Linn was backing her, but mostly both of them were pillars of our University and of their professions.  I have known few who so lacked pretension.

Reply to scheelin@illinois.edu at 12:15 pm