Memorial service held for professor


LaDona Knigge, Willis Greer’s wife, thanked family and friends for attending the memorial on Saturday afternoon in Colusa Hall. Photo credit: Lindsay Pincus

A memorial was held in Colusa Hall on Saturday for Willis Geer, a political science professor, who passed in his seventh-floor office of Butte Hall on March 2.

A room full of family, friends, faculty members and students arrived to pay respects to Geer, a loved and well-regarded professor and mentor. His wife, LaDona Knigge, greeted everyone with a hug and a warm smile. A slideshow of photos and music played as guests arrived.

The memorial consisted of many speakers, including Geer’s family members and closest colleagues. They shared personal stories and memories of Geer, always emphasizing his humbleness, dedication to the law, teaching and his way with words.

Tracey Geer, his daughter, discussed her father’s early life. Willis Geer grew up on a small cattle ranch in Gillette, Wyoming and attended rural schools. He graduated from Campbell County High School in 1966 and from University of Wyoming with a bachelor’s in business in 1970. He later received his master’s and juris doctorate.

He had a passion for the law and teaching. After retiring from the practice of law in 2007 he came to Chico State to teach in the political science department. Here, he inspired many people, students and faculty members.

Beau Grosscup, a colleague and friend of Geer’s in the department, had shared an office with him for five years and spoke of his fondest memories of Geer and what he will miss the most.

“Willis was a very delightful person that everyone respected,” he said. “The office this week has been lonely… I miss him very much. Willis Clay Geer was just the very best one can be.”

Thia Wolf, who works in the First-Year Experience Program and English department on campus, hired Geer to teach at Chico State. She became close with Geer and his wife.

Wolf admired their marriage, saying, “I saw the way Willis leaned toward LaDona and he did that metaphorically and literally. They had an amazing marriage.”

Each speaker at the memorial service had a different story to tell, but all agreed that Geer had a way with words — he spoke only when he felt that it was necessary and with clarity and intelligence. He was a successful, yet humble man.

Knigge ended the memorial service thanking those who came to pay their respects to her late husband.

“It’s amazing to see how Willis has touched so many people,” she said.

She then discussed the day of his passing, which she described as “very strange.” Geer taught four classes on Mondays, but on the day of his passing he only taught one. He had let his students out early because he had not been feeling well.

“I know he would’ve wanted me to apologize to you,” said an emotional Knigge to Geer’s students. “He was a very prompt and dedicated teacher who never missed a class without letting his students know ahead of time.”

His daughter, Tracey Geer, reflected on the day of his passing and how much her father loved his career.

“It’s kind of sweet that he was doing what he loved on the day that he passed,” she said.

Courtney Weaver can be reached at [email protected] or @court_weav on Twitter.