Posted by the former chair of our department, Laurie Maffly-Kipp, in July 2010.
The University of North Carolina and our department lost a very good friend last month with the passing of William D. McLester. Bill McLester was born October 18, 1936 in Lumberton, NC, son of the late James Dumas and Pattie Price McLester. He graduated from the UNC School of Medicine in 1965 and received his Doctorate of Philosophy in experimental pathology from UNC in 1967. After serving his country in the US Army in Korea, Bill devoted several years to research at UNC, practiced Pathology in Fayetteville, then attended the Medical College of Virginia with a Residency in Ophthalmology and returned to Fayetteville to practice until his retirement in 1999.
We will remember Bill best as a devoted father, grandfather, brother, and uncle, a man of wide ranging interests and intellectual curiosity, and a devoted supporter of UNC. Several years ago Bill discovered an interest in Religious Studies, and set out to provide support for faculty research in the department. Although he had not taken courses in the field during his time at UNC, he saw it as a way to help a smaller department that did not have the support of endowments held by larger units. He knew he could make a difference here, and he did. Through the establishment of the William D. McLester Fund for Faculty Excellence, our faculty have conducted fieldwork, purchased equipment vital to their research, attended conferences, and published important scholarship in a wide range of areas. Bill never wanted to occupy the spotlight for his contributions, but his unwavering and generous support made possible many things that otherwise would not have happened.
Just a year ago Bill moved to Chapel Hill so that he could be nearer to the intellectual vitality of the university he loved so much. It was our great pleasure to see more of him for occasional lunches and dinners, and to talk with him over coffee about his abiding interest in religious toleration and understanding. Bill really understood, in a deep and personal way, the importance of the teaching and research we do in Religious Studies. Always curious, engaged, and supportive, Bill’s legacy will continue to inspire and motivate us to reach out. His example reminds us of the transformative power of critical inquiry and intellectual engagement to reach learners in many places and stages of life.
Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp