Last night, an old and very dear friend, Robert Ackermann, passed away after a brief bout with cancer. Readers of my Autobiography will know how important he was to me during my long and difficult tenure in the Philosophy Department of the University of Massachusetts. Bob leaves his lovely wife, Inge, to whom he had been married for many, many years, and three children -- Robert, Carl, and Ilse.
Bob was a force of nature, a brilliant, multi--talented man whose scholarly work spanned Ancient Philosophy, Logic, the Philosophy of Science, Nietzsche, and much else. There was a period of many years in my life when I spoke to Bob every single day, even when he was away for a semester in Scandinavia. I learned from him constantly, and shamelessly plagiarized his ideas when I wrote a Philosophy textbook. In the doctoral program that we created and ran for a while at UMass as an alternative to the standard program, Bob was the central figure. Students gravitated to him, worked with him, learned from him, and wrote their doctoral dissertations under his direction.
Bob was also a professional jazz pianist who performed frequently in such venues as could be found in Western Massachusetts. I think it must have been a surprise for patrons of a lounge or bar to discover that the big man hunched over the keys playing standards and little known tunes was also a distinguished philosopher.
Bob was a cheerful, ebullient man with a mordant, ironic sense of humor. It is not an exaggeration to say that his presence in the Philosophy Department kept me sane during some very dark times. He will be sorely missed by a great many people, and was loved by many, including myself.
Requiescat in pace, Bob.