The Passing of Professor H. Ganse “Binks” Little

To the Williams community,

I write today with sad news of a retired faculty member who has passed away. H. Ganse “Binks” Little, Cluett Professor of Religion, emeritus, who taught at the college from 1963 until his retirement in 1997, died on March 14 in Charlottesville, Va. He was 85.

Binks devoted much of his life to the study and teaching of religion. Before coming to Williams, he taught religion at Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pa., and served as a teaching assistant at Harvard, where he earned his Ph.D.

At Williams, he contributed greatly to the life of the college, both inside and outside the classroom. In the 20 years during which he chaired the Department of Religion, starting in 1967, rapid growth of departmental enrollments, followed by new faculty appointments, set the stage for the development of an exciting and rigorous introductory religion course that was both highly popular at Williams and emulated nationally.

An intellectual who cared deeply about his students, Binks was intensely curious about developments in the full range of liberal arts disciplines. “Almost immediately following his faculty appointment in the Department of Religion, it became apparent that Binks Little had the potential to become a significant leader in his department and in the college generally,” says John Chandler, Williams president, emeritus, who served as dean of the faculty and religion department chair when Binks joined Williams.

Binks was also the first-ever chair of the Committee of Undergraduate Life when it was conceived in the late 1960s. Under his leadership, the committee recommended and the college implemented major revisions of protocols governing residential life. He also paved the way for student membership on standing committees that, up until then, were strictly composed of faculty. “Binks had a great memory for students and a complete devotion to them,” says Mark C. Taylor, Cluett Professor of Humanities, emeritus.

Binks became a full professor in 1974. That year he was appointed the managing editor of the American Academy of Religion Dissertation Series, a publishing venture organized to make outstanding doctoral research in the study of religion readily available to the wider scholarly community.

Shortly before he retired from Williams, Binks participated for two years in an experimental faculty development program, mentoring second-year faculty across the academic divisions and coordinating and directing periodic seminars and conferences that addressed the myriad challenges faced by new faculty members.

Born in St. Louis, Mo., in 1932, Binks grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and Pasadena, Calif., and attended Deerfield Academy. He graduated from Princeton University in 1954 and earned a B.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1957, having spent the 1954-55 academic year at the University of Edinburgh. He earned a Ph.D. from Harvard in 1965.

Binks is survived by Susan, his wife of 60 years, his sons William ’85 (Susan), Thomas (Surya), and Michael (Keerthi), and his grandsons Case, Quinn, Nicholas, Jalen, Eno, and Kiran.

A burial and memorial service for H. Ganse Little will be held in Williamstown on Saturday, Aug. 25.

Our thoughts are with Binks’ family and many friends.