Remembering Dr. Brian K. Etter

Aug 9, 2005

Associate Professor of Liberal Studies dies at 51

He was one of the quietest members of the Kettering University community. He is being described as "dependable" and "vigilant." And his Kettering legacy will be his exacting standards and attention to detail.

Brian K. Etter, an associate professor of Liberal Studies at Kettering, died Friday, Aug. 5, 2005, after a courageous battle with cancer. He was 51.

Karen Wilkinson, his academic department head in Liberal Studies, said the University community joins the Liberal Studies faculty in being deeply saddened with his passing. "Year after year we could depend on him to skillfully serve the department and the university," she said. "He served eagerly and passionately, always seeking new ways to improve academic life. He was vigilant in assuring fairness in the treatment of faculty and students."

Brian K. Etter was born in Hays, Kansas, the only son of Orville Eugene and Pauline Nossaman Etter. He received a Ph.D in European Intellectual History from the University of Michigan. He also received a degree in violin performance from Wichita State University and was a member of the Ann Arbor Symphony violin section for more than 20 years, becoming very involved in its continuing development.

Dr. Etter joined Kettering University on Sept. 17, 1990, where he was an associate professor specializing in Literature and Philosophy. "He was a mentor to younger faculty both in advising them and in creating the conditions that would help them to succeed," she said. "He was an admired scholar, having published one book in 2001 and another one to be published in 2006."

His 2001 book is "From Classicism to Modernism: Western Musical Culture and the Metaphysics of Order." It was published by Ashgate Publishing Limited. The book to be published in 2006 is "Between Transcendence and Historicism: The Ethical Nature of the Arts in Hegelian Aesthetics." It will be published by State University of New York Press.

He led Kettering's Faculty Senate, serving as Moderator from August 2001 through December 2002. "He served all faculty at Kettering," she continued. "As Moderator, he worked with the Senate to gain approvals for the first complete revision of the Faculty Handbook. In this work, he was able to set aside his own firm preferences to guide the faculty through the debate and compromise that eventually led to a revised handbook. Even after his term ended, he continued to work for two additional years on the final details of the revision. Without others realizing it, he was fighting cancer at the same time."

Wilkinson said Dr. Etter did not want others to know about his very serious illness. "He had too much work to do to spend time thinking about his illness and he didn't want others to do so either. His work was not ritualistic; it was not driven by a need for fame or fortune. He worked with purpose. He wanted his students to understand the most important ideas of humanity and he wanted them to know the rewards of learning that come from hard intellectual work. He wanted his faculty colleagues to have the best possible environment for leading a fulfilling academic life. He wrote books because of his passion for ideas and how these ideas would promote a more complete understanding of the purpose of human existence," she added.

He married Linda Bischak in 1982 in Midland, Mich., and recently became a proud father when he and his wife adopted a daughter, Natalia, from Poland. The couple enjoyed planning renovations to their 1870 house and were grateful when it was designated part of an historic district. He loved gardening. An intensely private man, his friends enjoyed his warmth, wit and conversation.

He is survived by his wife and daughter.

Funeral services will be 11 a.m., Thursday, Aug. 11, at St. John's Episcopal Church (2326 Woodward Ave., Detroit, Mich., 48201), with visitation from 10 a.m. until the time of service.

Visitation is 4-8 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 10, at Muehlig Funeral Chapel (403 S. Fourth Avenue, Ann Arbor, Mich., 48104, 734-663-3375).

Memorial contributions can be directed to the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra or to St. John's Episcopal Church of Detroit.

Compiled by Patricia Mroczek
(810) 762-9533