Remembering Will Wagner


[Will Wagner, class of `08, died suddenly on February 7, 2007.  I offered these remarks at a memorial service on February 11.]


I first met Will two years ago, when he took my introductory course in American government.  We started each class with an open discussion of the latest political news. And very early in the semester, it was clear how special Will was.  He was always excited to talk about developments in Washington or Sacramento.  And he was always eager to hear the latest political jokes.


His work was outstanding.  He was one of those rare students who not only do the work on time, but actually bring you drafts ahead of the due date.


A year later, he brought this same diligence to my Congress course.  One assignment asked students to trace the progress of a bill.  Sometimes students simply describe the major role call votes.  Will analyzed one bill and looked at dozens of amendments that came up.  He emailed me with this question


Anyway, that makes a total of FIVE, four from Republicans and one from a Democrat (a compromise).  I assume that all of the others were never adopted.  If Frist had not "filled the tree" the Republicans wouldn't have been able to stop the Democrats' attempts, right?   Also - how could they have five amendments if the tree that we talked about in class only allowed for four amendments? 


The answer was pretty complicated, but the important thing is that he thought through the question in such detail.  And that he really cared about it.


We’ve already heard about Will’s teamwork.  He got a chance to display it in the Congress class, during our legislative simulation.    Will played Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.  The real Hagel is a bit of a lone wolf, and I daresay that Will’s version was an improvement on the original.  He did an enormous amount of work behind the scenes, doing everything from drafting amendments and thinking up procedural motions to setting up the desks in the committee room.  One student said:  “He was a pleasure to work with and easy to approach.”  Another student said:  “It is not easy to portray a presidential hopeful.  But he had a way of making it look easy.”


That was the essence of Will as a student.  He worked hard, and he had a formidable intelligence. But he had a way of making it look easy.


He was a great student, but he was more than that.  He was kind.  He was compassionate.  He was just a great guy.  And that’s why we miss him so badly.




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