Godspeed to you dear friend. And Sally, my most heartful sympathy to you and the family. Time heals but grief relieves. So held close your friends and family, shed tears with them and remember the many blessings Brian brought to all of our lives.
On behalf of the Alumni Executive Council, let me express deepest sympathies to the Kirby family. Dr. Kirby taught thousands of Laurentians over the years and I know the alumni community is in mourning having heard the news today.
Ken Polk '91
Brian and I both came to SLU in 1966; it is hard to lose a friend of 44 years. I am remembering our shared service on the old Curriculum Committee in the 70s, for which I was secretary and wrote funny minutes; it was probably the only committee assignment where Brian and I both had a good time.
Robert M. DeGraaf
As happens often, one establishes some new relationships in retirement for what ever reason that is. That has been the case with Ted and I and Sally and Brian Kirby. We had found a common interest in art and had spent some enjoyable trips to appreciate such...mainly to Toronto and Ottawa ...but other places too. Brian had a wry sense of humor and an encouraging spirit and we shall miss him sorely.
Carol and Ted Linn
What sad news! I inherited Brian's lovely corner office, and many of his books, and frequently saw Brian and Sally in the Bookstore over the years. Brian was always warm and encouraging, inquiring about how things were going in the philosophy department. He taught me much about the history of the philosophy department, and enjoyed teasing me about the changes he was perceiving. Behind the friendly teasing were serious questions about the nature of philosophy, and how the academic field is changing. I very much appreciated his perspective, and will miss him. My condolences to Sally and family and friends.
When I first came to St. Lawrence in the mid-1980s Brian was one of the first faculty members that I met and felt immediately a kindred spirit. With a minor concentration in Philosophy I recall many discussions and debates about life and meaning. I will always remember that glint in his eye and cryptic smile when he knew he had "bested you" in an exchange-- but he always left you with a yearning for the next time. As such he was an invaluable introduction to the quality of teaching at St. Lawrence, and I can't help but think that he had the same effect on so many of the students whose lives he touched during his lengthy career. Asante sana for the memories Brian.
First semester freshman year was not an especially academically outstanding semester for me. Besides the normal high school to college transition, I spent about a month in a fog from a head injury. And, yes, Brian Kirby was my instructor for intro to philosophy. He was an understanding and fair professor, but I certainly didn't overwhelm him with my grades. In early January, my father brought me back up to school for J-term, and we went to a hockey game together before he departed for home. In between periods, he and I went down to the concession stand--the area was filled with throngs of people. My father, looking into the crowd, boomed out loudly, "Well, hello, Brian..." There was Dr. Kirby--probably one of the last professors I wanted to see after my substandard grades of the previous semester. Oh, to have a big black hole open up in the floor, as my father began to introduce us--Brian had served under my father either in the Navy or the Reserves. Brian looke d at me with that quiet wry smile, and said, "Why yes, I know Jill." Never had he let it be known that he knew my father (and really, with a last name like "Pflugheber", you can pretty much guarantee we're all related). And never did he hold that less than stellar grade against me.
When I returned to SLU, many years after that first class, I was perhaps a little relieved that he didn't remember me until I introduced myself. Then that smile, and and "Ahh, yes, Jill. So nice to see you again."
My sincere condolences to family and friends of this wonderful man.
I have such fond memories of Dr. Brian Kirby; as a friend, a friend of my parents, a teacher and a sailor (J-term in the Carribbean) and other adventures. I am thinking of his family now and hope they are all doing ok. My love to Sally, Sam, Sarah and families.
Joanne Green Hawkins
Brian always showed respect for others and this became obvious not only in his professional life. I knew Brian best in non-professional ways. First of all, he made the perfect squash partner. In those days when competition in squash among faculty members was at at its zenith, Brian remained the best among us.Playing with him was always highly competitive but also fun. I remember his smile as the squash ball went flying past the side of your head, realizing he had just made another terrific shot. I also remember his love of sailing and the St. Lawrence River. We both were sailors who found the tricky winds of the St. Lawrence to our liking. He seemed happy there and he came to Clayton NY often to be on the River. Brian was one of those people in your life who stays with you and who you remember. I write these words with this in mind.
Brian Kirby was among the first group of faculty I worked with at St. Lawrence because Brown Hall was then newly opened and was being used as overflow for the Economics and Philosophy Departments. Both eventually moved to new quarters but not before we shared several academic seasons together. This was around the time of the Caribbean adventures and J-term experiences. Brian was one of the most mellow and congenial of colleagues with a warm smile and strong sense of humor. It was a pleasure to work with this gentle man. I'm glad I knew him.
Brian Kirby and I were colleagues in the Philosophy Department from my arrival in 1972 until his retirement. We started one of the first environmental philosophy courses in the country (and the world) together in 1976. I loved his dry wit, and valued his humility. It was probably in the Navy that he acquired the habit of drinking more coffee than any body could stand, and his hands always shook slightly from the caffeine. He liked to draw, loved to sail, studied natural history as well as philosophy. He was a good man: gentle, fair minded, principled, temperate in his assessment of others. I grieve for his passing, and send my best wishes to his wife and children.
With great sorrow I learn of the death of Brian Kirby. What stands out most in my memory is his quiet, gentle, but quirky humor. We had interesting conversations about the modal arguments for the reality of God. The difference between us was that he actually understood them.
Prof. Kirby might have told you something of the coasting schooner, Harvey Gammage. It was with enormous pleasure that he and I initiated the SeaMester program aboard that vessel.
Prof. William J. Ash
My family and I still talk about the many fond moments we had with the entire Kirby family over the years. Thank you for making this journey so enjoyable.
I am so sorry to hear this news. While I arrived in the philosophy department a couple of years after Brian retired, I and often chatted with him and Sally in the bookstore. I didn't know Brian well, but one of the things I remember most was his sense of humor and his gentle teasing! My condolences to Sally and family.
We were fortunate to arrive with Brian & Sally in the fall of 1966 at SLU. But like others, we really got to know them in retirement. John had grown up in Schenectady playing around Lock 8 on the Erie Canal. The Kirbys invited us to ride with them from Troy to Syracuse as they brought their new boat, "Andiamo" (Let's Go" in Italian)up to Clayton from Long Island. Sam and Sarah had sailed with them around New York City and up the Hudson and we met them in Troy. During four days and nights on the canal, steering through locks, each one different in approach and instructions for travel, Brian was steady at the helm. We will always remember him in his topsiders and Bermuda shorts, wrapping up a sail, tying a knot, battening down the hatches, calm and collected, quiet and thoughtful, with a wonderful smile and sense of humor, even when the alternator broke. His strength and courage in his final illness are a lesson to us all. Smooth sailing, Brian. We will miss you.
Linda and John Kenny
Brian Kirby was my boyhood friend from New Haven, Connecticut. We grew up in the same neighborhood and went to the same schools. Over the years I had lost contact but the past was revived when my brother, Bob Wells, told me Brian was on the faculty of St Lawrence. I saw Brian from time to time visiting Canton and enjoyed our sojourns down memory lane. My sympathy goes out to his family at this time.
Curtis L. Wells
I first met the Kirbys before I came to St. Lawrence. They spent summers in Guilford, and lived across the street from a family whose children I babysat. Brian and Sally were always so kind and friendly, and were genuinely interested in how I was doing. I enjoyed running into Brian during my student years, and in the years since when I have been in Canton. He will be greatly missed. My sincere condolences to Sally and their family.
Anne Sibley '85
Along with sadness on learning of Brian's passing, we are mindful of what a wonderful colleague he was for so many years - a stalwart in the philosophy department, of course, but also one of the major forces for curricular revision in the 1980s. In particular, I (Tom) recall his involvement in the BASK (Basic Academic SKills) program that brought together writing and logic courses with library research. At the time this was a groundbreaking interdisciplinary innovation, and, with the wisdom of hindsight, it's clear the BASK program was moving the University toward its signature program, the First Year Program. Brian never sought the public eye but, with his quiet fidelity to the University's core mission of teaching students, and his twinkling sense of humor, he enriched our lives daily. We shall miss him and will be carrying Sally and the family in our thoughts in the days ahead.
Tom Coburn and Leigh Berry '64
I always looked forward to seeing Brian and Sally coming to the bookstore. I will miss his chatting with me. My sympathy goes out to the Sally and the entire Kirby family.
Brian’s passing has left me with a deep sense of loss. For more than 40 years we shared a friendship that extended far beyond the confines of the workplace. We had many common interests. One was his interest in 18th century naval history, which meshed with mine in 18th and 19th century military history. While he was doing the research for his 1989 article "Nelson and American Merchantmen in the West Indies 1784-1787”, Brian and I had many discussions over lunch about Nelson and the royal Navy activities in the Caribbean in the late 18th century.
Kelli and I have many pleasant memories of good times shared together and outings with mutual friends, around Canton and across the country and Canada. Brian had a keen intellect and a wry sense of humor that carried us all through good times and lean times. He always made everyone around him feel that they were special.
A memorable occasion for us was when James’s then fiancée, Helen Cullyer, was awarded her PhD at Yale. Kelli and I and Helen’s parents were guests of Brian and Sally at their cottage in Guilford, just a short drive from New Haven. It was the first time that we met Helen’s parents. The year before, Brian and Sally and Bill and Joann Elberty arranged to meet them the year before while barging the Thames. Chatting by the fire at the cottage with Brain and Sally was a most salutary way to for us to get to know our future family. The day Brian took us all to lunch at the fabled Mory’s, their son Sam joined us with a lovely and charming young woman who later became his wife. We all look back on that time together with great fondness.
Brian and Sally graced the weddings of both our sons, Jon in Canton and James in Olympia, WA. There they and Bill Crimmel represented the St. Lawrence contingent for the groom. Their presence at this very small wedding in a faraway place enriched the occasion.
Brian and Sally enjoyed their retirement to the fullest; they were roll models for us all. We’re very sorry that the good times have ended for them. We wish Brian clear sailing, and offer our deepest condolences to Sally, Sam, Sarah and the grandchildren.
Jon and Kelli Rossie
Our friend, Brian Kirby, died Monday night, and although it was only a bit over a month ago that we learned of his illness, and then the unremitting severity of its progress,no amount of forewarning could have prepared us for this loss. Although our friendship really deepened over the years since Brian and Sally put their sailboat "Andiamo" in a slip near ours on the St. Lawrence River, Jon had known Brian for about 35 years--the longest friendship with any male friend of his life.
Jon met Brian his first weeks at SLU, over lunch in the snack bar of the Noble Student Center, in fall 1975. They discussed philosophy, in Brian's typically unassuming manner, although Jon could fathom Brian's exposition about as far he could understand the straw propelled toothpick darts stuck in the ceiling tiles far overhead. The friendship with Brian expanded a few years later during collaboration in the freshman program which meshed informal logic, research, and writing.
But in the summers on the river, we really came to know and love Brian and Sally, whose interests, values, and lives blended with ours in such lovely friendship. Brian could rail with the best of us against the unbridledrapacity of self-serving conservatism,but Brian was mostly the stable, perceptive, accommodating person who was our unfailingly decent and stalwart friend. He was an individual,increasingly scarce in these divisive times, who, without conscious design, brought forth the best side of others and made us better than we are. We will all carry forward his memory and legacy.
Jon and Alicia Lindgren
I was saddened and shocked to recieve email of Brian's passing. We had been friends for many years, both at Yale where he was one year ahead of me, and in Woods Hole where we first met and were roomates in the old candlehouse. His quiet,gentle wit and wisdom were remarkable, and he was often helpful and supportive during my immature times of existential angst He was also a good drinking buddy. He sponsered my admission into a silly, but enjoyable underground "secret society" at Yale, and between there and Woods Hole I'm afraid that I pickled a few brain cells. We lost track of each other when I went to med school and he to the Navy. Much later, I learned from an old Woods Hole mutual friend that he was at St Lawrence, and I was disappointed that I hadn't known that when our son Christopher was there in the class of "93. I dearly wish that they had met, as I'm sure that Chris would have been greatly touched and helped by Brian. He must have been a terrific and inspiring mentor. We finally reconnected via a coincidental meeting at the CT shore just a few years ago, and I'm so sorry that we didn't have more time to get together after that. I regret my laziness and procrastination in persuing that I know that Brian will be greatly missed by all who knew him, but memories of him will be consoling and inspiring. My deepest condolences to Sally and the family.
Terry P. Weaver P'93
It is with much regret I did not get to know Brian very well. It is even with much more sadness and regret, especially after reading of remembrances of special times spent with Brian and Sally. I first met Brian last summer when I and my family enrolled in the US Power Squadron boating course, Brian being the instructor . Then in the fall, myself and another gentleman were inducted into the Power Squadron at the La Casbah restaurant in Potsdam. I had the enjoyable privilege of dining next to Brian and Sally, as they both together made it such a memorable and enjoyable occasion for me. I was so looking forward to this spring as Brian so graciously offered to courtesy inspect our sailboat, and we would get to do some sailing together.
I am quite sure that everyone in their own lives have met someone and thought…I am so glad to have met this person, and then due to the inherent nature of life, this person passes and one feels a genuine loss for not knowing them on a deeper level. Brian Kirby was one of those people in my own life. Kathryn and I send our deepest sympathy and prayers to Sally, and the rest of Brian’s family at this time.
Fair Winds Brian
I remain deeply saddened by the news that I received last week, and I offer my sympathies to Sally, Sam, and Sarah. I have sought solace in the belief that what has been lost in Brian’s passing is so overwhelmingly eclipsed by what was gained from knowing him. Most people who choose an academic career will credit one or a few of their college professors as inspiration. For me, becoming a professor seemed natural, as most of the adults I had known while growing up were teachers. But Brian’s role in my education and personal development was truly singular. I may have come to college with a curious and skeptical mind, but without Brian’s training in critical thinking, rhetoric, and both formal and informal reasoning, such a predisposition would only have led to frustration. Though it may seem hyperbole, he taught me how to think (not to be confused with _what_ to think). That gift is something that I use every single day.
My parents have already mentioned (above) that I was fortunate to share some special occasions with Brian and Sally; my wedding in particular. It is fortunate for me that I married a philosopher, and she keeps sharp the tools that Brian helped me to forge. But as a teacher, I still draw inspiration from Brian’s classes. Even today, as I prepare to discuss controversial and often divisive issues with a room full of students roughly the same age as my boots, I will periodically stabilize my demeanor by remembering Brian’s unflappable poise as he guided classroom discussions of God’s existence, free will, and host of equally hazardous topics.
Thank you, Brian. And thank you ahead of time for helping with next week’s classes, and _ad infinitum_.
James Rossie '96
I did not know that Brian came to St. Lawrence in 1966. He was therefore a teacher during my entire tenure as an undergrad. After reading the comments from so many former colleagues and students, I regret I never took a course from him as I regret never taking a course from my father, Douglas, an English professor.
I feared the stigma of sitting in class with my father. One misses so many teachers in passing and I'm sure Brian was a superlative one.
My memories of Brian have come in more recent years, seeing him walk around town with Sally--always together. Watching them build their new house on the river and occasional contacts through the Laurentian Chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club and their visits to my camp for our annual potluck.
They were always the life of the party, always in a jovial mood and so obviously happy in each other's company. That wry, intelligent humor mentioned by many will be missed in our small community, as I will miss seeing Brian in the years ahead. I offer Sally and her family my deepest sympathies.
Chris Angus '72