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Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute & Society

William Francis Shuter, Ph.D.

William Francis Shuter, Ph.D.

In Memoriam
(1931 - 2005)

By Madeline Wright, Ph.D, M.S.

Bill Shuter was a loving and beloved friend to me and to many people in various communities and groups that did not always overlap (yes, I lifted the adjectives from the title of Roy Schafer's article, "The Loving and Beloved Superego"). He was a devoted, passionate Catholic, a member for decades of Holy Trinity Student Parish on the campus of EMU. Accordingly, one set of his friends gathered in that circle. Another set was, of course, centered at the Institute.

Bill found a way of bringing his disparate circles of friends together. To take the most convenient example, myself, I can't see how I would ever have found my way into analysis without his gentle mediation and influence. Without analysis, I would not have thought of trying to begin a new career and life as a therapist. Without analysis, I might never have known that MPI existed. Without analysis, I do not like to think what might have happened. Even though I am now writing about myself and not directly about Bill, I think the personal references tell more about him than they do about me. Bill wanted to help people. He wanted to relieve suffering. He looked for ways to reconcile people in conflict. When the Catholic Church became riven by scandals, he looked for a psychoanalytic solution. His intervention was to set up a public meeting with representatives from the church hierarchy and from the Institute. I remember the pain-filled questions that came from the audience. It was not a comfortable gathering. Interventions of that sort are not likely to be comfortable, but they are precious.

For at least a week after Bill died, I couldn’t think of any quotations, any prayers, any hymns, any poems to help me. He was my dear friend, and I was in a strange state of disconnection. Later, I began to remember a sentence in Latin, something not too odd for me, since my first career has been teaching classical languages. The sentence is: “Bonum est diffusivum sui.” It is from the Summa Theologiae of Thomas Aquinas (prima pars, quaestio V). An awkwardly literal, schoolchild-type translation would read: “Good is diffusive of itself.” In short, goodness moves outward, reaching toward objects, whether human, animate, or inanimate. Anyone who saw how Bill tended his banks of plants in both summer and winter, and how he adorned them with little statues of angels and gargoyles, knows what I mean. Goodness diffuses itself. It spreads itself around. It does not stay locked up inside. Bill had goodness, and we happy few who knew him are recipients and beneficiaries, charged with keeping these ripples of goodness proceeding outward.

[Dr. Wright (Ph.D., Medieval Latin; M.S., Clinical Psychology) is Academic Dean at Ave Maria College, Ypsilanti, Michigan.]

His Good Works Enriched Our Lives

By Marvin Margolis, M.D., Ph.D.

On September 5, 2005, at the age of 73, William Francis Shuter, Ph.D., died of complications due to Addison’s disease. He had suffered from this illness for the past 25 years. This kind, thoughtful man was a candidate in our Institute. He had been a professor of English literature at Eastern Michigan University. He was deeply devoted to English literature, to Catholicism, to psychoanalysis, and to his friends.

English Literature. After receiving his Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin, Bill came to EMU and remained there for his entire academic life. He loved to teach Shakespeare and the Bible as literature. Bill always prepared anew for each class. In fact, he became interested in rereading and wrote a book about the subject. He also wrote a book about Walter Pater, an Oxford scholar of the Renaissance. Bill was a leading member of an international group of Pater scholars. He published regularly. He was saddened by the trends in his field that diminished the centrality of the classical canon. He was an academic bridge-builder and received major grants to develop interdisciplinary projects. Bill loved to organize meetings to further academic collaborations.

Catholicism. Bill was a devoted Catholic and was a member of Holy Trinity Church in Ypsilanti for almost his entire adult life. He was dedicated to the cause of peace and justice as an outgrowth of his religious faith. He enjoyed organizing celebrations centered about Our Lady of Guadalupe or the Passover Seder. These were also bridge-building opportunities between the Church and the Mexican community and Jewish communities. He was a reader at church services. Dr. Shuter was especially committed to youth ministry in outreach activities to the students at EMU.

Psychoanalysis. Bill became a candidate in order to further his efforts to write at the interface between psychoanalysis and Catholicism as well as psychoanalysis and English literature. Bill’s interest in psychoanalysis was deep and consuming. He helped organize our Academic Council to further dialogue between psychoanalysts and academics. Most recently, Bill was the chairman of this Council. Before becoming a candidate, he was an academic fellow in our Institute. Dr. Shuter in recent years wrote many papers in the area of applied psychoanalysis. He wrote about Pater, Oscar Wilde, King Lear, and the Mass. At the time of his death he was doing research on a paper about the role of Mary in Catholic devotions. His fellow candidates (20-30 years younger) welcomed his thoughtful contributions to class discussions. Our entire community benefited from the programming offered by the Academic Council under his leadership. An all-day symposium at Oakland University (Emma on the Couch) on Jane Austen’s Emma was one of his most memorable programs. He had hoped to establish a Journal of Applied Psychoanalysis at our Institute. Candidates are planning a project to honor his memory. Bill left half of his estate to the Michigan Psychoanalytic Foundation.

Friendship. Bill was devoted to his friends. Many of his students became life-long friends. There was nothing he enjoyed more than having dinner with friends. He loved deep, stimulating discussions while breaking bread and drinking a glass of wine. Bill was at the ready if a friend needed a ride to the airport or would open his apartment to friends in need of a temporary haven. He might even do “bread runs” and bring bread from Zingermans to those lucky ones on his list. He was a great listener. One friend said at the funeral that Bill always elicited the best out of his friends in these conversations.

We will all miss this kind devoted scholar/friend whose good works enriched our lives. We know that his spirit will continue on in the important work of the Academic Council, which he co-founded.