Bob Butz passed away Feb. 5, 2014 at the age of 92.
“I love to teach.” That was Bob Butz’s simple response to a question from a reporter, asking why he was still teaching in his late 70s, long after others had retired. And it was the title given to the article written about him that I posted outside my door as an Assistant Professor at Florida State University.
Or was Mr. Butz in his 80s at the time of the article? I guess I need to go back and find that article in my memory box, because in reading various tributes to Mr. Butz recently, I saw that he finally retired from teaching at age 88. I still remember taking Etymology with him in high school and partaking of his joy in uncovering the hidden roots of a word.
I often try to explain to students that when sociologists use the word institution, they do not mean just organizations, though organizations are a good example of institutions (such as when we speak of Universities as “institutions of higher education”). More accurately, however, institutions are social elements that provide “stability and meaning” to social life. This is why we speak of certain people as “institutions.” They are people whose existence is so long-term and such an important part of a community’s social life that there simple existence provides stability for an enormous number of other social participants.
Bob Butz was an institution!
He shaped the experience of students, teachers, and parents at Central Catholic High School in Lafayette, IN for decades. I felt sure, from my own experiences, that he was an institution, but after reading the many tributes to Mr. Butz following his passing, my belief was cemented by the way he called out similar responses in so many others. I’m sure that other Catholic schools have their own institutions–my wife speaks of Mr. Gerencher at St. Joe’s High School in a similar way–but Mr. Butz was ours.
Mr. Butz, you will be sorely missed. I can’t wait to learn from you again in heaven!
Here is part of the obituary for L. Robert Butz:
Bob began his formal education and lifelong love of learning at Duns Scotus College in 1944. He completed a Masters Degree at Purdue in 1953. But he never stopped learning. He continued his studies at Notre Dame, the Catholic University, Cincinnati College/Conservatory of Music, Ball State University and Indiana University School of Music.
The term Renaissance Man best describes Bob. He was a coach, an artistic painter, a wood carver, a scenic artist (known for his magnificent stage settings at many different schools and churches), a stone mason, a carpenter and builder, a choral director, a cantor, a soloist, a writer, and a biblical scholar. But most of all he was a teacher.
Bob lived a full and blessed life, dedicated to God, the church, and his family. He lived a life full of humor and a vivid love of people and things around him. And he knew how to laugh at himself.