Wheeling Jesuit community remembers longtime professor

  WJU News
  Tuesday, August 28, 2018 2:25 PM
  WJU News, Academics

Wheeling, WV

This past Friday, Wheeling Jesuit University hosted a celebration of the life of Dr. Benjamin Stout, Professor of Biology, who passed away on Aug. 3, 2018 at his home in Wheeling, WV. The memorial service was held in the Chapel of Mary and Joseph at 4:30pm and was attended by family, friends, long-time colleagues, and both current and former students.

Fr. Michael Steltenkamp, S.J., a three-decade colleague of Ben, served the community as celebrant. The service included readings from Ecclesiastes 3, the 2015 Papal Encyclical on the Environment and Human Ecology - “Laudato Si,” and the Gospel of Matthew. A choir of colleagues, friends, and former students provided music throughout the service including “Simple Gifts,” “For the Beauty of the Earth,” and “Go Now in Peace.” The service also included Intercessions, the Sign of Peace, and other prayers and reflections given by family and friends.

Toward the middle of the service, Fr. Steltenkamp shared the following with the community,

The Old and New Testaments are filled with vision-accounts.  In thinking of Ben’s parting, I had a vision—which I share with you now:

I saw hawks and crows, robins and wrens--flocked in formation to greet with gratitude the one who spoke their language. On behalf of them all, the eagle stood upward and with waving wings wept a welcome of thanks.

The woodchucks and weasels, rabbits and raccoons, and all the forest 4-leggeds asked both bear and deer--now fearless in their friendship--to speak for all gathered.  Together with their fawns and cubs, they stepped forth to say—“our forest families--thank you for defending us.”

And then spoke in unison the trees and streams, mountains and meadows, hills and hollers—“you were our hope”—and from all sides embraced the one who was their protector.

The long line of creatures led their friend, their spokesman, their protector and brother--to the One whose kingdom was now Eden reborn--where lions and lambs wondrously walked with all beings great and small--TO the One who smiled and said to this special guest: 

‘Hearing the felt-affection for you from all these nations of creatures, I warmly welcome you, Ben--you who are blest by my father--inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world--for these nations of creatures were hungry and you labored to see that they had food; they were thirsty and you gave them clean water to drink, they were displaced and you struggled to restore their homes. When you were their spokesman, their protector, and friend--you saw in them what I saw--that they were good and that they would need the stewardship that I asked your ancestors to provide ‘in the beginning.’  Thank you, dear Ben, for carrying out my request. My voice joins this chorus of creation in welcoming you with love.’

And Ben said in reply "There was still so much to do--so much I still wanted to do for the creation you gave us."  And God replied "This day you are with me in paradise.  You let your light shine, and your light has helped overcome the darkness.  And your torch has been passed.  Well done, good and faithful servant.”

The service ended with everyone joining together in “The Canticle of Creation” by St. Francis of Assisi and a final blessing from Fr. Steltenkamp.

A reception followed in the Erickson Alumni Center. This reception allowed for all attendees to reconnect, share memories, and enjoy a time of fellowship with one another.

The WJU Community would like to extend our gratitude to the following people who helped with this memorial service and reception:

Brenden Arbaugh, reading

Jamey Brogan, coordinator, worship aid, script

Hope Coffield, reception, planning

Dr. Peter Ehni, reading

Marybeth Emmerth, reception, planning  

Phil Emmerth, petitions

Jake Keeney, planning

Christie Nieman, flowers

Elizabeth Paulhus, music  

Dr. Mary Railing, reception, planning

Fr. Mike Steltenkamp, S.J., presider, reflection

Rachel Wadell, music, planning

Dr. Jessica Wrobleski, music, planning

WJU Physical Plant and Housekeeping Staff


Dr. Benjamin M. Stout, III

Dr. Benjamin Stout served as a Professor of Biology, specializing in environmental studies and sustainability at Wheeling Jesuit since 1992. During that time, he established himself not only as a champion of research and scientific discovery on campus but also as a regionally and nationally recognized steward for our environment. Specifically, Ben was an early and ardent supporter of water protection throughout Appalachia and testified numerous occasions for people of the region who had their water sources negatively affected by extraction industries such as mining and hydraulic fracturing. Ben’s career-long goal to “bring the voice of science to the people” was certainly achieved during his 26 years at WJU.

Ben was named Environmental Steward by the North American Benthological Society in 2007. In 2013, he received the “Don Gasper Science in the Public Interest Award” by the West Virginia Environmental Council. Ben was also named one of the 25 “Visionaries” by Appalachian Voices and was inducted in the first class of Fellows of the Society of Freshwater Science in 2017. Additionally, Ben was active in many community and environmental projects including work with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.

Ben was proud of his West Virginia roots. He especially enjoyed camping, hunting, and fishing in the West Virginia Mountains and in the Sinks of Gandy. He was known by many of his former students as the person who introduced them to a love for the outdoors.

Ben is survived by his mother, Ann Savage Stout Walters, and step-father, Richard Walters of Morgantown; three sons, Benjamin, Robert, and William; and their mother, Kathy Kyle Stout. Also, surviving are two brothers, James and Robert; sister Nancy; two stepbrothers, Craig and Marc; and stepsister Beth. He was preceded in death by his father, Dr. Benjamin Stout, Jr.


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