By Nichole Allen
After passing of a sudden heart attack on Sept. 13, Ph.D David Ede, chair of the Department of Comparative Religion, has left a mighty hole in the hearts of the campus community and a grand seat to fill.
Beginning his service at Western Michigan University as a faculty member in 1970, Ede became an associate professor in 1980 establishing himself as a pillar of the Department Comparative Religion.
“He carried a lot of institutional memories, he was really good at giving us a history of the place, we’ve lost an institutional, historian,” said Brian Wilson, associate professor of Comparative Religion.
A well-known expert on Islam, Ede was determined to enlighten people on campus about Islamic civilization.
“Especially after 9/11, it rekindled him and he was very concerned about students being educated on Islam,” Wilson said. “He intensely studied current events, making sure students knew what was going on in the world. He stressed a concern in the last decade on how important Islam has been in the world today.”
Ede was appointed Chair in 2007. He also served as chair of the Committee for General Education, which approves courses. A position, Covell said, he took very seriously.
Driven to educate students on Islamic civilization, Ede was instrumental in efforts to bring guest speakers and scholars to the WMU campus during his career.
“He was really involved and dedicated to his study of Islam,” Covell said. “He really sought to teach something to students at WMU about things going on outside of their world here.”
Although Ede had been working in the field for a long while and had a wealth of knowledge and experience, he kept abreast of new developments in the field of his specialization as well as in the discipline of religious studies in general.
“I’ve seen him lecture many times on Islam and he went to great efforts to see that students got a thorough and accessible introduction to the topic,” said Kevin Wanner, undergraduate advisor for the Department of Comparative Religion. “He was also very interested in conveying to students the ways in which Islam goes beyond typical American notions of what religion is and what it can do, that Islam is, in short, not just a religion as we tend to think of the term, but a political and cultural entity as well.”
In addition to his attention given to his teachings, Ede was considered a notable colleague and mentor.
“He was a great and warm-hearted and caring person who really went out of his way to take care of the other faculty, especially new faculty,” Covell said. “His openheartedness and caring for others in all, whether it was teaching or off campus, is what marked him and will be sorely missed.”
Wilson agreed adding that Ede’s passion for his studies was contagious and that he was very good with junior staff and new faculty coming in.
Brandon Dean, a graduate assistant teaching a course with several instructors and Ede said he had that ability to make you feel like you were special and he let you know when he was proud of you.
“Last week, when I was teaching the team-taught course, I made a joke that completely bombed,” he said. “The only person who laughed, out of 225 people, was Dr. Ede.”
Dean, whose focus in graduate school is American Pop Culture and Religion, added that Ede was a driving force behind a new digital media project in the department.
“Dr. Ede made sure we got the necessary equipment,” he said. “Not only the necessary equipment but the best equipment. His excitement for the department, the department’s future, and the courses he was teaching was inspiring and contagious.”
Wanner remembered Ede as probably the most active advocate for our department, in terms of working to keep our name, success in teaching, and faculty accomplishments in research in the minds of the university administration and community.
“Since becoming chair, he’d been working harder than ever at that, and it was mainly due to his efforts that our department was one of the few to be approved for a tenure-track hire last year, which we successfully filled,” he said.
“He was really the heart of the dept,” Covell added. “He just absolutely did everything he could for the department. He hated administrative work, but he was also good at it. There really isn’t anybody who could just walk in and take over and do that. It was just in his character to do that.”
A memorial adorns the door to his office at 2005 Moore Hall for students who wish to stop in and sign a guest book. The materials will remain for a couple of weeks before being given to his family. A campus memorial service is being planned.