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Remembering Emeritus Professor Peter Wollheim

By: Kathleen Tuck   Published 4:20 pm / August 7, 2015

Photo courtesy of Melissa Stoner.

Photo courtesy of Melissa Stoner.

Emeritus Boise State professor Peter Wollheim died July 21 at his home. He was 67 years old.

Wollheim came to Boise State in August 1989, and taught in the Department of Communication until his retirement in 2012. He continued to teach as an adjunct instructor for a year while starting a new career as a mental health counselor in Boise.

“Peter honored me with both his tutelage during my studies at Boise State University and his friendship for years after,” said Melissa Stoner, creative services director at KTVB. “If you ever wrote a paper for Peter, you probably know how much red ink he spilled over passive verbs. He toiled mightily against the passive voice, banishing was, were, had, be, did and a host of other bland, do-nothing verbs from countless student papers.”

The son of Holocaust survivors, Wollheim received an M.A. from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia in 1978, and a Ph.D. in mass communication/media studies from McGill University in Quebec in 1991. In 2012, he earned a master of counseling in mental health counseling/addictions from Boise State.

In addition to his work at the university, he was an active photojournalist and art writer. Projects include published photo essays on childbirth, the treatment of geriatric patients in a psychiatric hospital, the aftermath of gold mining on the landscape in British Columbia and the history of Idaho’s historic State Penitentiary.

Wollheim served as co-chair of the Idaho Commission on Suicide Prevention and was a founding board member of the Idaho Suicide Prevention Action Network. He managed a local suicide prevention hotline for 15 years.

He presented papers and posters on suicide at several national and international conferences and established the nation’s first Certified Crisis Worker preparation program on the Boise State campus. He also was a frequent contributor of articles related to mental health for the Boise Weekly. His family and friends said that in the end, he took his own life.

“Peter was always so generous of spirit and service, but as much as he wanted to help, he just couldn’t do it anymore,” said his close friend Susan Randall, associate director of University Television Productions. “I will miss his hearty laugh, insight into so many aspects of life and his eccentricities.”

“Peter was not passive,” Stoner said. “Peter taught, wrote, published, angled, tied flies, photographed, worked wood, collected books, played music, studied martial arts, traveled and gardened. Peter promoted, resisted, advocated, opposed, felt and cared. Peter opened and stimulated minds, raised expectations and elevated those around him.”

Arrangements were under the direction of the Cremation Society of Idaho. A memorial for Peter will be scheduled sometime in the fall.