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The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Lafayette mourns death of philosophy professor Joseph Shieber

Shieber taught 20 courses during his time at Lafayette. (Photo courtesy of Lafayette Communications)

Joseph Shieber, a Lafayette philosophy professor of over two decades, passed away on Sunday morning after a short illness. He was 53.

Shieber joined the Lafayette faculty in 2003 after receiving his bachelor’s degree from Yale University and his doctorate in philosophy from Brown University.

“He was a brilliant and astonishingly productive philosopher,” Owen McLeod, the head of the philosophy department, wrote of Shieber in an email.

According to McLeod, Shieber was simultaneously working on three book projects at the time of his death. Shieber also published an epistemology course for The Great Courses online series.

“Only the best and most knowledgeable teachers in their fields are invited to contribute to The Great Courses series,” McLeod wrote. “I don’t know how Prof. Shieber managed to prepare and record all 24 of those Great Courses lectures while also working full-time at Lafayette College, but he did. His energy and devotion to philosophy were inexhaustible.”

Alessandro Giovannelli, a fellow philosophy professor, chaired the departmental committee that reviewed Shieber’s application to become a full professor. Giovanelli recalled in an email that Shieber’s scholarship was such that he could have been promoted to professor “literally, at any of the very best research institutions in the world.”

“That was the level Joe Shieber’s achievements had reached; that’s how much his work contributed to our college’s reputation within the academic world,” Giovanelli wrote.

Shieber taught 20 different courses throughout his tenure, according to McLeod. His courses covered topics ranging from logic to metaphysics to theories of knowledge. He also taught a First-Year Seminar on propaganda, and once, a mathematics course on set theory.

Students will remember Shieber for both his brilliance and his kindness.

“I came into school as an English major, and within two weeks of sitting in his class, I knew that because of him, [philosophy was] what I wanted to do,” Charlotte Marshall ‘24 said. “I became a philosophy and English double major almost immediately because of his teaching abilities and his overall intelligence. He’s the smartest person I’ve ever known and probably will ever know.”

Jacob Moldover ‘24, a three-time student of Shieber’s, echoed Marshall’s assessment.

“He is the smartest professor I’ve ever had, and I don’t hesitate with that superlative,” Moldover said. “He genuinely knew everything about every area of philosophy.”

“He is also the kindest professor I’ve ever had,” he continued.

Maria Cangro ‘24, who had a class with Shieber on Zoom during the fall of 2020, recalled their relationship long after she left his classroom.

“He saw that there was an article written about me in the newspaper, and he linked it and said what an amazing opportunity it was,” Cangro said. “I remember responding to him saying how happy it made me and how much it made my day.”

Shieber’s dedication to helping his students astounded those who took his courses.

“He had a mentality where he would not quit until people understood the material,” Moldover said. “It would be really easy for a teacher to accept that some of the students aren’t going to understand every subject, and he was not willing to accept that and was actually able to change that.”

“He just really believed in us and wanted to see us succeed, even if it meant giving us a bunch of tries,” Cangro added.

The college community gathered for a celebration of Shieber’s life at the President’s House on Monday evening.

“The words that were expressed were exactly the reason why we’re all here at Lafayette,” college President Nicole Hurd said of the gathering. “It was this beautiful moment of holding up our beloved colleague and also taking care of each other.”

For McLeod, Shieber’s presence is irreplaceable.

“The Philosophy Department will eventually regroup, but we’ll never find another Prof. Shieber,” he wrote.

Services will be held for Shieber at Joseph Levine and Sons Memorial Chapel in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania on Friday at 1:30 p.m. Lafayette stated in an email to the campus community that it would offer transportation to the memorial for those who register.

Contributions in Shieber’s memory may be made to Tyler Arboretum, located at 515 Painter Road, Media, Pennsylvania, according to his obituary.

Disclaimer: Business Manager Jacob Moldover ’24 did not contribute writing or reporting.

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About the Contributor
Madeline Marriott
Madeline Marriott, Editor-in-Chief
Maddie (she/her) is a senior English major with a Government & Law minor. As the Editor-in-Chief, a Mentor Writing Associate, a Senior Student Contributor for Lafayette Communications, a Communications Intern for the Office of Sustainability, co-founder and Vice President of English Club, and a Senior Interviewer for Lafayette Admissions, no writing happens on campus without her knowing about it. Her Google Calendar would make your head spin. She is a die-hard Swiftie and Phillies fan, a collector of tote bags, a builder of a Hay Day empire, and an avid Goodreads and Letterboxd user. She smokes cigars and uses an old-timey typewriter and notepad in the newsroom.

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  • D

    Deborah SpadacciaApr 15, 2024 at 10:11 pm

    I did not know this gifted man but I can tell by reading the article anyone who had the pleasure of coming in contact with the Professor was blessed. My condolences to his family and friends and all students and staff at Lafayette. May your wonderful memories of him bring you peace. God Bless him.

  • G

    Gilad EvansApr 12, 2024 at 1:44 pm

    He was such a kind professor and advisor even if I was not a Philosophy major. He will be very much missed, and never forgotten.

    RIP Professor Shieber.

  • O

    Owen McLeodApr 12, 2024 at 9:50 am

    Thank you so much, Maddie, and to all who contributed to this moving remembrance of our beloved Prof. Joe Shieber.