Bill Niggemeyer, a founding member of the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media at Gonzaga University, and a recipient of the NW-ARM Media Literacy of the Year Award for people who make a difference in the life of the community, died this week following an illness.
A father of 10 children, several of whom are Gonzaga alumni, Niggemeyer was a former junior high school teacher in Spokane and was a lay Franciscan and a board member at Pax Christi.
John Caputo, a communication arts professor at Gonzaga and longtime friend, said Friday that Niggemeyer was surrounded by his family in his final days and hours. He died on Wednesday, Jan. 13.
“Bill contributed so much to the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media that I cannot enumerate it all here,” Caputo said. “Bill also was significant in bringing major speakers to Gonzaga University, both through has affiliation with the Francis-Ignatian Center, and then through the Alliance.”
Among the speakers Niggemeyer helped bring to campus were: Jerry Needleman, who spoke of wisdom; Ron Collins and David Skover, who addressed the “Death of Discourse”; George Gerbner on “The Killing Screens”; and Rev. Paul Soukup, S.J., whose lecture was titled, “Take Back the Culture.”
“But Bill was never satisfied with only bringing speakers,” Caputo said. “He wanted people to do something about what he saw as serious problems in our society. Bill was concerned about children and the legacy we were leaving to them.
Until this past month, Bill was still active in trying to bring Chris Hedges, reporter for The New York Times, to campus as well as organizing a conference on Aldus Huxley and George Orwell’s understanding of the effect of media on culture.”
Last month, Niggemeyer sent Caputo something he labeled “The Impossible Dream!”
“The Dream was establishment of a Center for the Study of Culture, Values and Spirituality at Gonzaga. This multidisciplinary Center was thought to be a place of dialogue,” Caputo said. “It will allow the strength of the community and the strength of the University to converse around the real issues that drive our lives and shape our society. It will be a place to provide people of faith with the intellectual and institutional resources they need to translate their religious commitments into a healthy civic engagement into public life.”
A proposal for the Center was submitted in 1998 and while it had been approved for possible funding, it was never built.
“I wrote in response to Bill last month, that the Dream is not impossible. We just need to revive it. The goals are perhaps even more needed today,” Caputo said. “Bill never quit. He wanted ideas and information available for what he termed ‘the ordinary among us.’ Bill wanted to transform society and he made everyone he touched, better.”
Caputo said he could think of no better way to honor Niggemeyer than “to continue to carry the torch for the Center, to remember the ordinary, and especially concern ourselves for the culture we are shaping for our children. Bill has been our blessing.”
A celebration of Bill’s life will be held at 1 p.m., Saturday Jan.23 at St. Ann’s Church (2120 E. 1st Ave.), where he was a longtime member. A reception will follow at the Knight’s of Columbus Hall (302 E. Boone Ave.) at 3 p.m.