Hillsdale College faculty, stu­dents, and members of Hillsdale Free Methodist Church con­gre­gation cel­e­brated the life of former Hillsdale College phi­losophy pro­fessor Donald Turner, who died last semester, at a memorial service on Sat­urday. External Affairs

Pro­fessor of The­ology Jordan Wales described the memorial service for former phi­losophy pro­fessor Don Turner like only knowing one verse of a song, and “sud­denly being in a canyon” which echoed other voices singing the whole song.

“I felt like I was saying ‘Hello’ to him in a new way, even though we were all saying ‘Goodbye,’” Wales said.

On Sat­urday morning, March 23, Hillsdale College faculty, stu­dents, and members of Hillsdale Free Methodist Church con­gre­gation gathered to cel­e­brate and remember the life of Pro­fessor Donald Turner. A former phi­losophy pro­fessor at the college, Turner died of cancer on Nov. 11, 2018, after teaching at Hillsdale for 18 years. Hillsdale Free Methodist Church and Linda Turner, Turner’s mother, hosted the service and lun­cheon to share stories and mem­ories of his life.

“It was very moving to me, because it was not just the com­munity of Hillsdale pro­fessors and stu­dents who were there, but the wider com­munity of the church, the choir of which he was a member,” Wales said. “But he was absent, he who had always been at the center of every gath­ering.”

Rev. Keith Porter began the service by reading from Eccle­si­astes 7 — “a philo­sophical book to cel­e­brate the life of a philosopher,” he said.

Stephanie Acosta Inks, a former student of Turner’s, shared stories with the con­gre­gation about how as a pro­fessor, Turner’s encour­agement helped her through many dif­fi­culties during her four years of under­graduate school. Inks said he did this by making himself and his time uniquely acces­sible to his stu­dents.

“He would start every class — and I took six of them — by telling his stu­dents that they could call him at any time, even if it was at 3 a.m. And they did,” she said.

Inks also shared his will­ingness to provide an ear to his stu­dents con­tinued beyond the classroom, and her friendship with him even sup­ported her during her post­partum depression after the birth of her first child.

“I remember talking on the phone to him, and he said to me, ‘You must just want a warm meal and an unin­ter­rupted shower.’ I thought to myself, ‘How could he know?’” Inks said.

Pro­fessor of Phi­losophy and Culture Peter Blum also spoke at the memorial service.

“It’s hard to talk about Don, and there is a reason for that,” Blum said. “Don never talked about Don. Don talked about you.”

Blum shared that Turner’s ability to connect with people of dif­ferent values than himself was one of the qual­ities that made him so loved. He also said Turner, former head of the Star Trek club on campus, was the first to introduce Blum to mul­tiple fantasy and science fiction books, a comment which sparked a laugh from the room.

Blum also shared a passage from C.S. Lewis’ “The Silver Chair,” when the char­acter Pud­dlegum declares he will “stand by the play world,” even if it does not exist, because it is a much better world than the false one created by the evil queen. Blum said Turner had the same unwa­vering faith as Pud­dleglum.

The Town and Country Chorus, the com­munity chorus group of which Turner was an avid member, sang at mul­tiple parts of the service. The church also played a mock com­mercial made by the church com­munity a few years prior, in which the minds of Turner and other church board members are con­trolled by Porter.

“Thanks to Turner, science fiction and fantasy infil­trated our board meetings,” Porter said, laughing.

Wales shared that after the service, he was inspired and spent the rest of his weekend con­sid­ering how Don Turner might have handled various sit­u­a­tions, while planning his 10-year-old son’s birthday party.

“How much fun it would have been to plan it, to discuss my ideas about this King Arthur birthday party with Don Turner,” Wales said.

Porter con­cluded by reading several pas­sages of Scripture about having a lasting faith through times of dif­fi­culty.

“That’s the faith and con­fi­dence Don had, and I saw it in his life and the people that he touched,” Porter said.