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In Memoriam: September 2013

Published: September 16, 2013

William Herron McGowan, Professor of Philosophy at CSULB from 1967-96, died Aug. 14.

McGowan was born William Kerr Henry Herron III Feb. 8, 1931, and adopted by Stuart Rice McGowan in 1938 in Cleveland, Ohio. He attended Cranbrook Preparatory School and then Kenyon College from which he graduated in 1953. He then attended Johns Hopkins University, receiving his Ph.D. in Philosophy in 1957 with a dissertation titled “Berkeley’s General Theory of Signs.” He taught first at Washington & Jefferson College in Pennsylvania (1957-60), then at Eastman School of Music (1960-66), where he offered one of its first humanities courses.

After a year as a Visiting Professor at the University of Arizona (1966-67), McGowan joined the Philosophy Department of CSULB, where he taught for nearly three decades.

At CSULB he regularly taught introductory philosophy as well as courses in the history of modern philosophy. His main teaching and philosophical interest was in the British Empiricists, especially Bishop George Berkeley, and in closely associated areas of the philosophy curriculum, like epistemology, philosophy of perception and philosophy of language. McGowan was deeply interested in the cultural, literary and political context of his central philosophical figure, Berkeley. He was a long-term member of the International Berkeley Society and published a variety of articles and reviews in The Berkeley Newsletter, The Journal of Educational Thought, Indian Philosophical Quarterly, Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, and South Central Review (of the Modern Language Association). His essay “Berkeley’s Influence on American Philosophy” was published in the Viewer’s Guide to “The Dean of Thin Air,” a 1983 TV-film documentary produced by WSB TV in Rhode Island and funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

McGowan was also an accomplished pianist and a deep devotee of classical music and opera, teaching part-time at local colleges and at El Toro Marine Base.

McGowan and Carol Ann Hawkins were married Jan. 2, 1952, and had two children, Richard and Lynn. The family settled in Huntington Beach when McGowan joined the CSULB faculty. He was preceeded in death by his wife, who died in 1995.

His family suggests that in lieu of flowers McGowan could be remembered by a gift to the Metropolitan Opera—whose broadcasts were one of his favorite radio programs throughout his life.

He will be remembered by friends and colleagues at an informal memorial service to be held during the fall semester.

Paul Chi Lung Tang, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at CSULB, died on July 27 at the age of 69, following a long illness. A member of the faculty for 22 years until retiring in 2008, he served as chair of the department from 1988-94 and graduate advisor in 1997-2001. He also taught in the Department of Asian and Asian-American Studies, the University Honors Program and the Department of Science Education.

Tang was the son of a world-renowned biochemist in China and a mother who earned a doctorate in pharmacology. A native of Vancouver, Canada, he received his Bachelor of Science with High Distinction in zoology and biochemistry from the University of British Columbia in 1966; his Master of Arts in Education from Simon Fraser University in 1971; and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Washington University in St. Louis in 1975 and 1982, respectively. His doctoral dissertation was “An Epistemological Study of the Gene Concept in Biology.”

He also received a certificate in bioethics from the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University in 1983 and a diploma of associateship from the Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto, with Honors in Piano, in 1962. Throughout his life, he loved playing his spinet piano at home and regularly attended musical concerts at the CSULB campus. While in St. Louis at Washington University, he worked as the music critic for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, writing hundreds of reviews.

His major teaching specialties were philosophy of science, philosophy of social science, epistemology, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, history of science, logic, Wittgenstein, Quine, Goodman, aesthetics, and Asian philosophy. His introductory course in critical thinking was legendary on campus and always filled to capacity with long waiting lists. Prior to joining the CSULB faculty, he taught at Grinnell College, Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, Washington University, and St. Louis Community College at Meramec.

Tang edited the Philosophy of Science Association Newsletter from 1986-90 and the Philosophy of Science Academic Journal from 1972-75. He also was guest editor for a special issue of the Social Science Journal in 1999. He was the co-author of the LSAT Preparation Guide in 1990 and a revised edition in 1992. Active in publishing throughout his career, he had 36 major articles, additional articles and book reviews published in along with numerous conference presentations.

He was especially active in the graduate M.A. program at CSULB, assisting students in the organization of numerous major conferences and serving for many years as faculty advisor for the Student Philosophy Association. He chaired the M.A. thesis committees for 45 students, several of which won the Outstanding Thesis award from the college, and he was a member of 10 additional thesis committees at CSULB.

He was especially proud of co-authoring with graduate students numerous papers presented at conferences and published in journals, both here and abroad. Even after serious illness forced him to retire, he continued to tutor graduate students at his apartment near campus and assisted them in developing their thesis projects.

Tang is survived by a sister, Mei, in Washington.