J. William Loving, Jr., 1934-2009
By Bobby Davis ’82
Most people imagine college financial aid to be dry and boring, and for students and their parents it is also stressful and unpleasant. Yet Bill Loving, Director of Financial Aid at Rollins from 1970 to 1986, saw it as a passionate mission that had creative aspects, and his outsized personality was anything but dull. For many students, professors, and administrators, Bill’s variegated intellect, passionate enthusiasms, and ribald sense of humor were a big part of what made Rollins a humane and joyful community. He truly “lived large” (and no, Michael Stewart, this does not refer to his girth), an epicurean who relished great food and drink and great conversation.
As Michael ’82 says, “‘The Large One,’ ascended to the great art gallery in the sky” this past September 13. His memorial service at the Maitland Art Center drew more than 120 former students, colleagues, and friends, many of whom shared heartfelt memories. Michael spent countless hours visiting with Bill in the hospital and rehab and working with the aides to ensure he was comfortable, helping his wife Nancy, and keeping his spirits up with irreverent humor.
“Having met Bill in 1981 while attending Rollins, I had the pleasure to maintain a friendship with Nancy and His Eminence for almost 30 years,” Michael said. “We traded books, jokes, and movies throughout those years. I had the pleasure of attending art and photography exhibits with him at Cornell, Loch Haven, the Maitland Art Center, the Southeast Museum at DBCC, and many other venues. He imparted a profound interest in the arts and an appreciation thereof. His keen knowledge of wine was well known, as was his palette. Although his last six months were filled with health-related struggles, he rarely lost the ability to offer me the ‘one-finger salute’ when I left him from a visit at Florida Hospital North and South or the various rehab facilities in which he resided. He is ‘largely’ missed.”
Bill joined Rollins after serving as Financial Aid Director at Florida Technological University (now University of Central Florida), where he became friends with future Rollins colleague Wanda Russell. Even then, his irreverent humor made a mark in that much stodgier campus.
“In the Spring of 1970, I learned that Abe Collinsworth was leaving as Financial Aid director for Rollins,” recalls Sam Crosby ’73. “Abe had been instrumental in my coming to Rollins and had increased the aid package so I could live on campus. As a scholarship student I needed to get to know the new guy, Bill Loving.
“Bill was the wittiest person I have ever known. When I told Bill I had been accepted at the University of Florida Law School, he said, ‘You will raise the average IQ of both places.’
“Although best remembered for his humor, Bill was much more than a funny guy,” Sam continued. “He was an ordained Baptist Minister, an art collector, an accomplished photographer, an avid reader, dedicated fan of Rollins sports teams, mentor, informed political observer, music lover, and dedicated husband to Nancy.”
“I met him through Sister Kate when I first arrived on the Rollins scene,” recalled John Langfitt, former Assistant Dean of the Chapel. “I quickly became aware of his kindness and mentoring. I saw him as an undercover administrative ombudsman, always there for the students, helping them navigate the Rollins rules in a positive way. Many a time I heard about Loving getting help for students caught in a financial bind. Like Arnold Wettstein and Sister Kate, both good friends of his, he was in that circle of folks who really cared for the students. He will be sorely missed.”
“Bill and I met in the theatre department,” said former Dean of Students and now Assistant to the President Steve Neilson. “Bill was a photographer and I needed someone to take pictures. And could he take pictures. His pictures of Equus still are hanging in my home. We both loved theatre and especially musicals. He loved Fiddler on the Roof and played a small part in 1776.
“We also enjoyed Rollins soccer matches, sitting on our lawn chairs on the sidelines and question the legitimacy of the refs.
“We always has a little repartee when we would see each other,” Steve said. “I'd pronounce ‘Your Largeness’ and he would answer with some sort of vile retort. But we were always glad to see each other. He was always there for you, certainly not in a mushy way, just an old friends way. He would NEVER forget a birthday, finding some of most off-the-wall cards made. They were always perfect. He remembered anniversaries, celebrations, St. Patrick's Day…I still have many of those cards.”
David “Spike” McClure ’81, said, “When I started at Rollins I was a history major and never went near the theater until Bill got me a job in the shop building sets. When I started to act in shows, he would call me into his office for student aid talks and then turn the conversation to acting and plays. When I finished school, he continued to pester me about moving to New York, until one day he announced that the best time to go would be 15 January and helped me raise the gas money. So basically I've spent my adult life in New York City because Bill wanted to live here vicariously. I hope he enjoyed it.”
As Todd Pittenger ’84 noted, “For kids on financial aid like me and others, Bill was a large part of why we were able to come to Rollins in the first place. Bill didn’t just get us there; he counseled us on work study jobs, helped choose professors and major fields, shared his love of photography, the arts, and fine wine, cheered on the athletes amongst us at events, encouraged the leaders, and helped get us jobs or into graduate schools.”
Bill was a great boss for those who worked for him, bringing in employees and work-study students who worked hard and cared about helping people, but who were also bright and enjoyable to be around. Secretary Suzie Gallagher (whose two sons came to Rollins on financial aid) was the face of the office and typed at an otherworldly pace, and was a kind of mother to us all. Myra Edmondson had not worked in years but became our loan officer after MBA student Lee Emrich ‘80 graduated. She learned quickly and brought her trademark warmth and concern to the not-very-exciting experience of Guaranteed Student Loans, and she went on to a successful career as a bank loan officer. Assistant Director Linda Downing had an art background but was a financial whiz who helped keep Bill on track. She is now Director of Financial Aid at Seminole Community College, and for several years Bill’s successor in that position at Rollins.
Bill also cherry-picked students that he thought were the best to work in the Financial Aid office. We weren’t there to do homework; we had a serious job in a sensitive area, and we were expected to work hard and treat our “customers” respectfully. Yet he also had little parties in the office—serving very good wine always--after a hard week, gave us his mints and coffee bean candies, and sometimes called you into the office just to chat for a little while—usually around a forest of student files. He taught what it was like to be a professional, but in a fun and nurturing environment.
“I learned a lot from Bill,” Linda Downing said. “For example, I will never again misuse the word ‘hopefully.’ As Loving reminded me, the word means ‘full of hope’ and unless you can substitute the phrase for the word, you have not gotten it right. He gave me a copy of E.B. White’s wonderful grammar guide Elements of Style and recommended I use it. It has been nearly 30 years and, from time to time, I still use it.