I heard at last week's SPEP meeting that Joseph Kockelmans had died at the end of September. I was asked to say a few words in his memory. Here's more or less what I said.
He had earned these positions of prominence, of course, due to the excellence of his scholarship. An expert in Husserl and Heidegger, he made important contributions at the intersections of phenomenology, hermeneutics, and the philosophy of science.
I knew him primarily as generous, kind, yet demanding teacher. Clear and patient in his lectures, he was also rigorous and enlightening with his comments. I strive every day in dealing with my own students to follow, however imperfectly, the example he set with us.
In addition to his intelligence and generosity, Professor Kockelmans was possessed of a sly wit. He often allowed us to impose on his time to lead reading groups on Husserl and Heidegger, and whenever we had a question about Heidegger, he would say with a twinkle in his eye, "Well, if Heidegger himself were here in the room with us, we could turn to him and say 'Master, what does this mean?'." He would then continue, "And I believe he would say the following ..."
Thinking back on those little performances, we can see both a genuine humility -- he did think of Heidegger as his master -- and a little twist -- he had also, as much as anyone can say this about a great thinker, himself mastered Heidegger's thought.
But it's only with the first of those properties, a humility toward a great teacher and important figure, that I'd like to say that if Joseph Kockelmans himself were here with us today, we could turn to him and say "Master, we hope you realize how grateful we are for all that you have done for us."