Philosophy professor leaves behind legacy of love for Irish culture


Marquette Wire Stock Photo.

Natalie Wickman

After teaching at Marquette for 35 years, philosophy professor Bill Starr died Sunday of natural causes, the university announced Monday.

Starr was well-known in Milwaukee as a lover of all things Irish and for founding the Milwaukee Feis Society, which brought the first certified Irish Dance Competitions to the city. He was also a longtime coordinator of the traveling performer staging area at Milwaukee Irish Fest.

“He was a dedicated teacher and a good colleague, whose areas of specialization were the Philosophy of Law and Ethics,” said Philosophy Department Chair Nancy Snow in a statement. “He had an interest in the British Empiricists, especially (George) Berkeley and (David) Hume … His lively interest in Irish Studies was unique and benefited our students through Special Topics courses. He will be missed.”

Starr, who began teaching in 1980, had three course sections this semester: one section on the theory of ethics and two sections on business ethics. Snow said she and Sebastian Luft, assistant chair of the philosophy department, are looking for Starr’s replacement.  

“I’ll be meeting with each of (Starr’s) sections tomorrow to explain the situation,” Snow said in an email. “We hope to have teachers in place by Thursday of this week.”

Starr is survived by his wife Marna, daughter Maura (Tim) Heck and two grandchildren. Details on a visitation and funeral mass will be provided soon.