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Campus Auditorium

In memory of William "Bill" Gering

By Naomi Keeler

Retired Professor William GeringRetired IU South Bend speech professor William “Bill” Gering passed away on February 8, 2012 in South Bend. Arriving on campus in 1965, Gering was IU South Bend’s first full-time speech professor and over the next 25 years crafted many of the elements of today’s speech program, including the long-running Speech Night competitions. He and his wife also established the William L. and Lucille E. Gering Scholarship for students in communication studies.

He valued the rhetoric of public speaking origins, which was reflected in his belief and admiration of the classic Greek scholars, such as Cicero. Gering strongly believed in preserving and passing on the importance and value of the Greek classics to students and showing how they are still relevant to today’s world.

Adjunct instructor Craig Hosterman, who worked with Gering for eleven years in the late 1970s, recalls “He was born to be a teacher but reached out to his students beyond the role of educator. He was a mentor of sorts…to me and students. He encouraged people to learn about listening, which pushed the envelope in our field at the time. His approach to public speaking was to touch the situation the way the masters would.”  

Among Gering’s many achievements was the creation of Speech Night, a mainstay and traditional event at IU South Bend. This April marks the 30th anniversary for the long-time public speaking event. Considered the hallmark of the public speaking course, students nominate speakers from each class section to compete in a persuasive speaking contest.

The venue moves from the classroom to Recital Hall, an experience Gering believed was important for all college students. The public speaking course is a campus required course for all IU South Bend students. Senior Lecturer in Communication Arts Kevin Gillen says of Gering, “A scholar in listening, Dr. Gering’s approach was listening, evaluating, and critiquing the message right there. Taking the essence of the speech from the classroom to a 250- seat auditorium gave students a public speaking experience they likely had not had before.”    

In 1995, Gering and his wife Lucille established the William M. and Lucille R. Gering Scholarship. The scholarship was created to continue Gering’s legacy as an educator, which emphasized classroom learning and academic extracurricular activities. Their wish was to provide students with the opportunity to have speech as a basic subject, while also furthering the university’s mission, and encouraging others to donate to Indiana University.

Gering’s educational experience started in a one-room country school in South Dakota and led him to complete his Ph.D. in Speech Communication in 1963 at the IU Bloomington campus. Before his teaching career began at IU South Bend, Gering obtained a B.A. degree from Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas, in 1951. For two years, Gering taught at his alma mater from 1963 to 1965. Four years later in 1955, he earned a B.D. degree from Bethany Biblical Seminary in Chicago, Illinois. While at the seminary, he received a one-year scholarship to study at the University of Mainz in Germany. He was also a member of the Speech Association of America, the American Association of Parliamentarians, and the International Listening Association.

He retired from teaching in 1989. He enjoyed collecting primitive and antique tools to educate and share with fourth grade students in Mishawaka public schools. Gering also found great satisfaction in restoring old furniture, reveling in the oration of the furniture’s origins the most. He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Lucille, and their two children, daughter Caroline and son Jeffrey.