Bennett “Ben” Willeford, Jr.

The campus community mourns the passing of Bennett “Ben” Willeford, Jr., who died on Saturday, September 22.  Ben retired as Professor Emeritus of Chemistry after 33 years of service to Bucknell.

Fellow colleagues of Ben’s shared with me the following citation that was read at the 1984 Commencement upon his retirement:

“Since 1950 you have served this University with honor, demanding of students their finest effort and receiving their gratitude.  With firmness of spirit and gentleness of heart you have reminded us of what is right and true. As young Turk and as elder statesman, you have earned the esteem and affection of your colleagues. We applaud the example of your fine teaching and your loyalty to Bucknell, and wish you well as you continue your research in Germany and England next year.”  

Included below is the complete text of the obituary, as published.

You are encouraged to visit our In Memoriam Site at and share personal notes of sympathy and remembrance with others.

On behalf of our entire University community, I extend our deepest sympathies to Ben’s family and friends, as well as to all who knew him at Bucknell.

John C. Bravman


Bennett “Ben” Rufus Willeford, Jr., 96, formerly of 75 Maplewood Drive, Lewisburg, entered into rest Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018, at RiverWoods, Lewisburg.

He was born Oct. 28, 1921, in Greenville, S.C., the only son of Bennett R. Sr. and Elizabeth (Thomson) Willeford. Ben’s twin sisters died shortly after birth and he never knew them.

Ben was educated in the public schools of Charlotte, N.C., at Emory University, Atlanta, Ga., and the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

In 1950, he became a member of the faculty of the Chemistry Department of Bucknell University, Lewisburg. Ben taught there until his retirement in 1984. After retirement from Bucknell, he continued to teach for nine years at various schools in the United States including Earlham College and Baylor University, as well as schools in Germany, India, and Liberia.

Ben was actively involved with a number of local, national, and international peace and social justice organizations.

Surviving are two first cousins, Nancy Nickels of Charlotte, and Margaret Thomson McCallum of Chester, S.C.

A memorial service will be conducted at 2 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25, at the First Baptist Church, 51 S. Third St., Lewisburg.

Memorial gifts may be made to the First Baptist Church, 51, S. Third St., Lewisburg, PA 17837, or the Mennonite Central Committee, 21 S. 12th St., Akron, PA 17501, or to another organization devoted to peace and social justice issues.

Funeral arrangements are by Roupp Funeral Home Inc., 8594 Old Turnpike Road, Mifflinburg.

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One Response to “Bennett “Ben” Willeford, Jr.”

  1. Offices of the President and Human Resources says:

    Shared on behalf of John Cooper, retired faculty, Department of Chemistry:

    Ben Willeford

    Ben died the weekend of 22-3 IX 18, just a month shy of what would have been his 97th birthday, 28 X 18.

    When I came to Bucknell in ’67, Ben became my mentor by default. We shared responsibility for the physical chemistry course, arguably by many, the most demanding in the BSCHEM degree program. Ben was the best mentor I could have hoped for. Wise and truly, inherently compassionate toward all, but especially the deprived and underprivileged, he guided me through my formative years at Bucknell with grace and humor. When I ran afoul of the peculiarities of tradition and administrative prerogatives, Ben gave a wry smile and said not to worry, it had happened to all of us at one time or another. He, above all others, showed me how it was done: not letting those capricious and arbitrary peculiarities get me down.

    He was personally modest and self-effacing, but a valiant comrade in the struggle against injustice and oppression of others. After I retired in ’03, I joined Ben and others at the Saturday Noon Peace Vigil in which Ben was a regular participant when his other commitments – e.g. counseling prisoners at the Penitentiary – didn’t claim pride of place. Again, his calm but determined insistence on doing the right (small-r) thing was repeatedly demonstrated. Two of his protest signs were most popular with others, when he wasn’t available to hold them: END GUN VIOLENCE NOW, and “YOU CAN NO MORE WIN A WAR THAN WIN AN EARTHQUAKE! – Janette Rankin”

    Of course, he will be missed, but his gentle leadership and example will remind, and encourage, us all of the better angels of our natures.

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