Ed Rauchut passed away last Thursday, very prematurely, at age sixty-one. The news came to me unexpectedly. Only a few months before, he had seemed his characteristic hale and vigorous self. A few weeks ago, over the phone, nothing sounded amiss. Death is real, sometimes sudden, and infamously unfair. We all know this, but the reminders come hard.
Ed was many things: a memorable teacher, a productive scholar, an academic entrepreneur, a devoted husband and father. He was also something much more exceptional: an absolutely genuine man.
I’ve known and worked with people of many types, all drawn to the mission of the NAS. Nearly always they come with the best of intentions, but these are rarely unalloyed. For most, including myself, pure purpose is melded with less flattering drives: vanity, self-assertion, uncharitable righteousness, etc. They define our fallen world.
Not so with Ed, not at least in any way I could detect. He was as he appeared, open-handed, agreeable, caring, decent in every respect, everything you could want in a colleague, to say nothing of a friend. Ed’s idealism was of the romantic rather than the stoic kind, born not of dutiful struggle, but of passion for the good. To have known Ed was to witness this shine through, as so many did.
Ed gave a lot to the NAS. He served on our board for nine years, the last two on our steering committee. He was the founder of the Nebraska Association of Scholars and the leader in its successful effort to secure adoption of a state civil rights initiative. He convened several NAS regional meetings and at Bellevue University was the chief architect of the Center for American Visions and Values, as well as the Great Books signature series, part of the university’s undergraduate core. He was, in many ways, Bellevue’s iconic professor.
But beyond this, way beyond, he served as a continuing reminder of what a life well lived should be, personally and professionally. That’s a teacher for you – and a man. Rest in Peace.