Philip W. Warken, 69, Naval Academy teacher

October 30, 2004|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Philip Walley Warken, a retired professor who had spent more than three decades teaching American political, social and cultural history at the Naval Academy, died of undetermined causes Sunday at his home in Canaan Valley, W.Va. He was 69.

Dr. Warken was born in Columbus, Ohio, and raised in Bexley, Ohio. He earned a bachelor's degree in history from Capital University in 1957. He earned a master's degree and a doctorate in American political history from Ohio State University.

Dr. Warken, who served in the Army Reserve from 1958 to 1963, began his career at the Naval Academy in 1965 as an instructor in American political history, and later developed courses in American social history and popular culture.

"He was an intensely private man who was well-respected and liked by everyone, even though he could be brusque at times," said Larry V. Thompson, a longtime friend and retired colleague, who is an authority on Nazism and World War II. "However, he was always absolutely honest and had a ready wit."

Dr. Warken favored conservative three-piece suits and sweater vests and often incorporated his subtle sense of humor into his wardrobe. He also enjoyed smoking maduro-colored cigars and was partial to those that were hand-rolled in Cuba.

"He was a big fan of Erte ties in flamboyant colors and even wore one with nudes who were discreetly covered by his vest," Dr. Thompson said with a laugh.

"While establishing himself as a dynamic teacher, he quickly became the head of the academy's debate program, a position which he held for over three decades," Dr. Thompson said. "Under his guidance the activity expanded and flourished. By the 1970s, his teams routinely received national ranking and prominence and vied for several national championships."

Dr. Warken became a national leader in debate circles and was president of the American Debate Association from 1991 to 1995.

"The rapport he had with his midshipmen debaters became legendary," Dr. Thompson said. "Indeed, they stayed in touch with him over the years and always referred to him not as `Coach' Warken, but simply as `the King.'"

Dr. Warken was chairman of the history department from 1980 to 1984 and served on numerous faculty and Naval Academy committees through the years.

"A recognized champion for faculty governance, he chaired the Civilian Faculty Affairs Committee several times, was one of the driving figures behind the creation of the academy's Faculty Senate and was its first president," Dr. Thompson said.

In recognition of his service to the Naval Academy, Dr. Warken was awarded its Service Excellence Award in 1995. "It was an honor he richly deserved," Dr. Thompson said.

The Naval Academy was his life and family, friends said.

"He was described as being the `Mr. Chips of the Naval Academy with a cigar,'" said David P. Peeler, department chairman and professor of history at the academy. "He was department chair when I was hired and wanted me to understand the gravity and importance of teaching those who might not come back.

"As a teacher, he was able to lead students to and make them aware of ideas. He also had an analytical perspective about the American past. He inspired a deep sense of loyalty in his students, who always made sure they checked in with him when they came for a visit."

Dr. Warken, a resident of the Bay Ridge section of Annapolis, lived part of the year in a log cabin in Canaan Valley after his retirement in 1999.

He was a member of the American Civil Liberties Union and gave generously to many causes, friends said.

"He had an extremely deep social conscience," Dr. Thompson said. "There is no question about that."

A wake celebrating Dr. Warken's life will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday at the United States Naval Academy Officers' and Faculty Club.

"He was a man of great sentiment who couldn't take funerals or retirement parties," Dr. Thompson said. "He refused to put himself through them. He wanted his life celebrated and not mourned."

There are no survivors.

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