Friends of Lewis & Clark Remembered

In Memoriam

Ken Kinnear Ken KinnearKen Kinnear, professor emeritus of religious studies, died December 8, 2015, at age 91.

Kinnear earned an AB from Albion College in 1945 and went on to earn a degree in divinity from the Chicago Theological Seminary in 1948. After earning his degrees, he moved to Corvallis, Oregon, where he served as a youth minister. In 1958, he accepted a position teaching theology and Western civilization at Lewis & Clark, where he worked for 27 years until his retirement in 1985. 

While teaching at the college, Kinnear remained deeply engaged with faith communities in the area. Each year, he taught short courses, seminars, and evening programs at local churches on topics such as the Gospels, biblical themes, the history of Christian theology, and the prophetic tradition.

In 1962, Kinnear developed a teaching experiment designed, as he put it, “to help first-year students get a hold of their academic situation so that they can minimize the floundering and anxiety that so many students experience, particularly in relationship to the civilization–humanities program.” His approach anticipated more contemporary efforts to help students develop the skills necessary to succeed in college.

“Ken’s stock-in-trade is his tolerance and sense of humor,” wrote Allan Kittell, who cotaught a course with Kinnear, in 1979. “Put them together with a keen intelligence, a deep compassion for and understanding of students, then add that white hair and beard, and you can begin to see the image for wisdom that Ken has among the students.”

Survivors include three daughters, four grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Vince McDermott Vince McDermottVince McDermott, professor emeritus of music, died February 10, 2016, while on a visit in North Sumatra, Indonesia. He was 82.

McDermott, an accomplished composer who worked in many genres, was a new music pioneer whose compositions included pathbreaking work that employed both classical European and Asian musical forms and instrumentation. His compositions included works for orchestra, chamber ensembles, voice and chorus, solo instruments, and Javanese gamelan. He also composed operas, two of which—The King of Bali and Mata Hari—were premiered on campus.

McDermott earned his PhD in music composition, music history, and aesthetics at the University of Pennsylvania in 1966. Before coming to Lewis & Clark in 1977, he taught for a year at the Hampton Institute in Virginia, then for 10 years at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music in Milwaukee.

During his two decades at Lewis & Clark, McDermott pioneered the teaching and performance of world music. He developed courses on the music of East and Southeast Asia and the music of India, Africa, and the Middle East. He also instituted or supervised performance classes in African marimba; Ghanaian drumming, singing, and dance; Indian sitar, tabla, and vina; Japanese koto and shamisen; and Javanese gamelan.

Thanks to McDermott—and the generosity of donor Loraine Fenwick—the college acquired the Venerable Showers of Beauty gamelan, a magnificent set of Javanese instruments that dates back to around 1880. This gamelan was the first of its kind in the Northwest and about the 10th gamelan to arrive in the United States.

“Vincent changed my life in the most surprising and unexpected way after introducing me to gamelan when I was 18 or 19 in a world music class,” remembers Mindy Johnston BA ’97, who now teaches gamelan at Lewis & Clark and Portland State University and directs the Venerable Showers of Beauty gamelan ensemble. “His influence on my life sent me running with open arms down a path I couldn’t have imagined… . He has touched the lives of countless individuals around the world, particularly through his love of gamelan.” 

In 1998, after his retirement from Lewis & Clark, McDermott taught at the College of William & Mary, where his then-wife, Sophia Serghi BA ’94, a noted composer herself, serves on the faculty.

From 2002 to 2003, McDermott was a Fulbright Senior Scholar at the Institut Seni Indonesia in Yogyakarta. Since that time, he had made his life in Indonesia with his wife, Sary Sinaga, also known as Ipeh, and their son, Shaun. He enjoyed a full and busy “retirement” as a composer and performer. In 2013, he published a well-received book, Imagi-Nation: Membuat Musik Biasa Jadi Luar Biasa, about his experiences as a teacher, mentor, and composer of music in Indonesia.

Survivors include his wife, Ipeh, and his children, Lise, Robert, Jamie, Anna, Tristram, and Shaun.

Bernie Wolff Bernie WolffBernie Wolff, professor emeritus of education, died January 6, 2016, at age 89. Wolff attended Reed College for three years, then completed his bachelor’s degree with a major in zoology at Oregon State University in 1949.

After serving in the military, he taught elementary school, first in Lincoln County and then in Multnomah County and Lake Oswego, Oregon. He went on to earn an M.S. degree in 1958 and a D.Ed. in 1968 from the University of Oregon.

Wolff joined the faculty of Lewis & Clark in 1962. He was a highly respected teacher and an intellectually engaged and active member of the faculty. He was a strong and thorough planner, with a reputation for conscientiousness, perseverance, and hard work. He displayed those qualities in his service to the college and in his professional involvement beyond the campus, including his service as the president of the Oregon Association for Higher Education, membership on the Oregon State Teacher Education and Professional Standards Association, and deep involvement with the public schools.

“Bernie was an incredibly bright, caring, and sensitive man,” says Vern Jones, professor emeritus of education. “He absolutely loved teaching and the difference it made, and he was deeply committed to constantly improving his classes and the elementary teacher program he directed.”

Wolff was a deeply spiritual man. Over his lifetime, he participated in numerous religious congregations, among them First United Methodist, Koinonia House, and First Unitarian in Portland. He was also an active volunteer for a number of social service, religious, and peace-related organizations. After he retired from Lewis & Clark, he volunteered as a teacher assistant at Garibaldi and Arleta Elementary Schools, where several of the teachers had been his students at Lewis & Clark.

Wolff and his wife, Sara Lee, had two sons, Chris Wolff and Scott Wolff BA ’82. Sara Lee died in 1982 after a courageous struggle with cancer. In 1985, Wolff married Carol Rouillard, who survives him, along with other family and friends.